Lean UX and the Agile mind-set are all about efficiency - emphasis on forward progress, no project management bells and whistles, cut the deliverables, go-go-go.

Even so, fancy Lean tools have cropped up all over the place to help manage sprint cycles, track progress, collaborate more, better, faster. And that’s cool - the designers and developers and stakeholders probably need those tools. But for Lean User Research - well, we can stick to the basics and still get what we need.

Web Conferencing Tool

Our go-to web conferencing tool for remote Lean User Testing is GoToMeeting, but WebEx and even join.me can work fine too. We like recording, screen sharing, and giving our participants control of our mouse and keyboard. GoToMeeting has its limitations, like a somewhat awkward setup process for participants, so make sure you send a note ahead of time to your users about how to get started.

Survey Tool

There are so many survey tools out there with super cool features like branching, piping, embedding, etc. But for Lean UR, you really just need the basics: As long as you can include images to go along with your questions, you’ll be all set. We like SurveyMonkey for its simplicity and cost effectiveness, but look around for what works best for your team.

Card Sorting Tool

When you need your users’ help with your information architecture - and you should - turn to a card-sorting tool to get the job done and the analytics in one place. OptimalSort allows you to run an open sort - for help both grouping content in your product and naming those content groups - or a closed sort - for validation of labels and content groups. Or both! Use this software for a quick and comprehensive look at your users’ mental models.

Virtual Whiteboarding Tool

Realtime Board is a really awesome virtual whiteboarding tool that lets you brainstorm together, apart. This is great for 2 key collaborative Lean UR activities: story mapping requirements and developing personas (see 4 Ways to Kick-Start Lean User Research for Agile Product Teams). Then, when you start talking to users - and you better! - you can use it to brainstorm ideas and capture mental models of what users are saying.

Interactive Prototyping Tool

When you want to test interactions or workflows in your app before you go out and build it - and you should - use a prototyping tool like InVision to create hotspots on your static designs that will quickly make them interactive. The users can see how something is meant to behave, rather than conceptualize it. You can even create links from this tool and send out surveys to users if testing is down the road.

These are the top 5 types of tools you need to be able to execute a successful Lean UR strategy. Do you have more ideas for Lean UR? Hit me up at @valletown on Twitter.

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