Taking a ‘Lean UX’ approach to developing products and services tends to boost interaction between company employees, and is a key factor in creating a consistent user experience.
A Design graduate with French-US roots, Christian Égéa began his career with French strategic consultancy Attoma before joining US design consultancy Frog Design, working in Austin, Texas and later in San Francisco. Two years ago, after a decade in design consultancy, he joined Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, California as Design Manager for the apps development team. Stanford Health Care’s renowned Stanford Hospital is recognised as one of the most connected hospitals in the United States according to ranking agency U.S. News & World Report. Here Christian Égéa shares with us his vision of the ‘Lean’ user experience – ‘Lean UX’ – which is the main focus of his work, and its impact on company organisation.
What does ‘Lean UX’, an approach that focuses hard on the user experience, mean in practical terms when it comes to the creation of physical or digital products?
Christian Égéa: Well, the transition that I have made in my own career, from working as an external design consultant to becoming a designer who is fully integrated into a single company, is a good illustration of how thinking has changed, leading to this approach to the design process which is known as ‘Lean UX’.
The forerunner of ‘Lean UX’ is in fact the ‘Agile’ methodology which began to be adopted in the early 2000s. The essence of the ‘Agile’ approach is to break a work task down into short, iterative sequences, each lasting just a number of weeks. ‘Lean UX’ sort of builds on the foundations laid by Agile by introducing a human-centred methodology.
To continue the comparison with my own career path, I went from consultancy, i.e. a system based on deliverables, to being a designer at the heart of Stanford Health Care, which calls for a continuous, long-term-focused approach to the work. And that’s exactly what ‘Lean UX’ is all about.
So how does adopting this particular approach to product creation change a company?
‘Lean UX’ encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. It brings together teams that in the past used to work in silos along traditional company dividing lines. Under the ‘Lean’ approach, employees – whether we’re talking about software developers, designers or marketing managers – have to work together because without smooth, continuous communication between them, errors will crop up that will impact the value chain and impinge on the final product, to the detriment of the user experience.
Basically ‘Lean UX’ requires us to take an overall, end-to-end view since it takes into account the technical feasibility of a given project, its business viability, and its ability to solve a real problem for the user, a concept which we describe as ‘fulfilment’. In other words we try to ensure that the app or device we’re creating is going to be effective, fully relevant and user-friendly.
Human-centered design strategy by Christian Égéa
How does the ‘Lean UX’ approach work in practice at Stanford Health Care?
At Stanford Health Care, we try to inculcate a feeling of inclusiveness, creating opportunities for collaboration between different areas of the business which traditionally never used to speak to each other because of the way the company was organised or because they thought that approach was more efficient. We now for example set up small multi-disciplinary work teams.
I should point out that the hospital has around 7,500 employees, most of whom are directly focused on healthcare. However, over the last three years there has been a real culture shift – a good illustration being that among the in-house staff we now have people hired for their digital and design skills.
When we’re running a project we try to bring the designers and software developers together with the commercial strategy people. This means actually sharing the same workspace. In addition, every two weeks we meet representatives from the patients’ community. We show them the work we’ve been doing, we observe them using our products or services, and then we make any necessary alterations on the basis of their feedback.
What are you currently working on at Stanford Health Care?
At the moment we’re working on patient relationship scenarios, for example the way we welcome and counsel patients, in fact the whole way we talk to patients, basically. We’re trying to standardise people-to-people relations at Stanford Health Care, to create communication standards and put our own stamp on patient relations. It all comes back to the need to create a consistent experience across the entire range of contact points, both physical and online. We’ve built our online patients’ portal My Health – a web platform designed for both iOS and Android devices – along these lines. This is the prime online point of contact between patients and medical staff. It enables patients for example to make appointments, look up the results of their medical examinations, settle their bills and get in touch with a member of staff, all online.
We also hold regular get-togethers with our Help Desk team – that’s the call centre for those who use our apps. The call centre staff are in a good position to give feedback on our users’ views. They help us identify recurrent problems and test out our hypotheses regarding the solutions we hope to deliver with our latest prototype.