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Agile UX vs Lean UX – A Complete Guide For Beginners

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There has been confusion among most people about picking an approach from “Agile” and “Lean”. Especially when it comes to UX practitioners to adapt with either of these approaches. It is seen that Agile was initially just used for development and later UX has been added to the agile process, this makes the adaptation a bit tricky for the companies and sometimes it is just for the sake of it. To pick the best approach that suits your individual, team, and organizational level goals it is good to know about each of these approaches, their similarities, and differences to come to a better decision.

What is Agile UX?

Agile UX is an approach that combines both Agile software development and UX practice. ​​The Agile design methodology places a strong emphasis on flexibility and reactivity and favors individual contributions and collaboration over the process. As the development process moves forward, it is aimed to make the process user-centric and attentive to input and feedback while avoiding being mired in formality or bureaucracy if possibilities to innovate and advance arise. The addition of some Agile UX principles has given a new shape to the whole “Agile Development” process.

Agile and Lean UX


Agile has always encouraged collaboration, chunking tasks, building and then testing to incorporate feedback quickly.

Agile follows the process that includes the following steps:

  • Plan
  • Design
  • Code
  • Test
  • Review

Core Principles of Agile UX:

  • Real-Executable timelines
  • Integrating design at every step
  • Adaptive & Robust Designs
  • Effective communication and collaboration
  • Continuous Testing

What is Lean UX?

Lean UX is an approach that integrates product development, design, and business and encourages ongoing improvement, frequent iteration, and validation. Lean UX is fundamentally about letting the design team’s work be guided by the confirmation of hypotheses. Hypotheses are important for the team to openly think and assume scenarios. This suggests that there are only assumptions here and that designers never base judgments on their intuition or preferences. Designers are able to come closer to exceptional user experiences more quickly by constructing, measuring, and learning. It is actually about “It should not be the statement you only workaround, it should be a problem statement which you believe can be true”.

Lean follows the process which includes the following steps:

  • Ideate and build
  • Measure and handover
  • Analyse and lean

Core Principles of Lean UX:

  • Cross-Functional Teams
  • Progress = Outcomes, not just Output
  • Dedicated Chunks
  • Problem Focused Workforce
  • Eliminating Waste
  • Prioritize Task in Smaller Chunk
  • Continuous and Iterative discovery
  • GOOB
  • Collaborative Understanding
  • All for one and one for all
  • Open to all
  • Let Analysis SPEAK
  • Growth with Learning
  • Cherish failures
  • Get out of deliverables

Now that we have looked into what both approaches are and the principles of both, Let’s look into what “Agile” and “Lean” have in common-Similarities of Agile and Lean. 

Similarities Between Agile and Lean UX

Now that we have looked into what both approaches are and the principles of both, Let’s look into what “Agile” and “Lean” have in common-Similarities of Agile and Lean. 

1. Iterative Behavior

Both “Agile” and “Lean” are iterative in nature. Includes a lot of refinement and improvement per iteration to make the product adaptive and robust. Both of these approaches chunk down complex tasks into smaller sub-task to expedite implementation. This always makes the overall work process flexible to incorporate feedback quickly.

2. Designer’s Heaven

Including a user-centric approach, proper research and data collection, and enough time for analyses and wireframing along with proper validation, feedback, and iterations. Both “Agile” and “Lean” come to the rescue of designers making them work effectively.

3. Proof based

To make the product robust – proper validation and justification for iterations are a believer there in both approaches. Both methodologies emphasize research, testing, and challenging or validating assumptions, and this is where evident user experience research and quick feedback come into play.

4. Collaboration

When it comes to incorporating cross-functional teams, having everyone present in feedback, ideation, and healthy brainstorming sessions “Agile” and “Lean” are exactly the same. Both these approaches put collaboration as a top-notch priority in problem-solving. Both encourage cross-functional teams to contribute their ideas and insights after every cycle of sprint/validation.

5. Goal Oriented

At the beginning for both “Agile” and “Lean”, there is a basis to start with problem-solving. Both these approaches are equally goal-oriented which includes proper planning, chunking of tasks, and validation to check whether the product meets expectations and fulfills all the requirements.

Agile UX vs Lean UX

We have seen what both approaches have in common, but some of the principles do not always overlap with each other. Let’s have a look at those principles and points on which “agile” and “lean” do not intersect.

1. MVP creation

To create a “minimal viable product”, “Lean UX” is the fastest approach to follow. This is because lean UX begins with assumptions and hypotheses. Lean UX has a principle that says to reduce waste, which means implementing fewer features would take a lesser amount of time to build. Creating an MVP using a lean approach is the best and fastest way of doing this. Both Agile and Lean follow different routes of execution for a project.

2. Core Value

Core values of the “Lean” and “Agile” approaches are very different when compared with principles. Agile majorly focuses on collaboration and enhancement of the product you’re working on. It aims to create one polished product. Whereas Lean majorly focuses on user value with continuous experimenting and testing with the product. Aiming to produce multiple polished variants, out of which one final product is picked.

3. Documentation

The Agile UX approach heavily depends upon documentation, from start to end everything is documented to keep track of tasks, processes, and results. Starting with the sprint planning to handing over the designs each step is properly documented. Whereas talking about the Lean UX approach, documentation is not so valued. Lean ux believes in a fast-paced environment where multiple products are obtained based on experiments. Documenting everything in lean ux practice would add up to the complexity and waste of time as later most of the products might be discarded.

4. Business & Market

The Lean UX approach focuses on matching the product to the business or market standards. Whereas Agile focuses on delivering a product that creates an impactor to test as per the market or business standards – Produces one polished product at the end after so many iterations.

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Major Takeaways

We have seen what both approaches have in common, but some of the principles do not always overlap with each other. Let’s have a look at those principles and points on which “Agile” and “Lean” do not intersect.

1. Lean UX majorly focuses on MVP creation

Lean UX focuses on building MVPs because the philosophy behind lean UX is to avoid any time wastage during the process. It involves processes like rapid ideation, coming up with assumptions, quick build, and then validation. 

2. Agile UX brings structural sprints

The agile process from the initial phase as well is known for being very planned and structured. After incorporating UX as a phase in the agile cycle, this practice of being planned is continued. Proper emphasis on planning, execution, and documentation is given to record every step in order to not go around in circles in the future. What is being done is mentioned in order to be aware of what processes and approaches have already been taken to enhance the product.

3. Adding UX in Agile has made Agile stronger

For big companies that are very planned and have the time & resources to put the best into the product, Agile UX has made a lot of changes in both product and implementation strategy. User experience work being done before sprints, research and design-thinking methodologies influencing and directing product design, proactive outreach to end users, collaboration, and the development of systems to maintain the focus on user-centered design. Along with this regular feedback from the UX team is being added to the product.

4. Both approaches bring good to the industry

Lean and Agile approaches have brought changes to the market in the way User Experience is looked at. Both approaches include a designer’s toolset in the software development process and are user-centric, collaborative, evidence-based, and iterative. Irrespective of which approach a company or team chooses to follow, it is promised that results will be in the user’s favor.

5. Agile prioritizes people over processes & tools

Agile not only values individual contribution along with the team but also the system functionality, ease of use, thorough documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiations, and adapting to change instead of sticking to a plan are all examples of this.


Having a healthy debate around “Agile UX” and “Lean UX” is very important for any company to carry out as early as possible to plan and stick to the plan from the start. In the series of these articles, where we have looked into both approaches in full detail, we understand what each of these brings to the table. Both the approaches have pros and cons, knowing which you are as a designer in a company or going ahead with your own startup and taking this as learning which approach to select based on your primary goals and availability of time & resources. 

Both of these are different and similar in a way, which might be taken as a plus to go ahead with both – combining what works best for you! There is no one to stop you from creating your own approach to solving problems, as long as it justifies your designs and work.

Last Updated : 01 Nov, 2023
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