Workshop-up! Find out how to run UX workshops efficiently
When it comes to developing a certain product, process or interface, we rely on business requirements. In the end, for business people, meeting those requirements is equal to the project’s success. However, our potential “client” is rarely a single source that determines our success.
By weighing a product against certain technological limitations and users, oftentimes it turns out that our predictions – which we assumed were good – are not really that great. Unfortunately, it is then much harder to drastically change our approach and start over. As a result, we end up with a project, which “has to be used”, and which “works not quite as it should”.
By definition, a workshop is a meeting, which gives us the opportunity to improve our skills and competencies in a particular area. In the world of design, the workshop evolved into a meeting which aim is to share and broaden the knowledge in the scope of a particular topic, and to generate solutions for the potential problems.
Employing more or less structured techniques, a certain group of people generates contribution, which accounts for a starting point of a product.
Still too abstract? Let’s then imagine a classic brainstorm session. You set up a meeting, topic, and try to spur a certain group of people on generating ideas. Do you know that you have just organized one of the simpler workshop forms?
Therefore, think of some techniques or tools which you could use, and then which topic or problem you try to solve – and of course, what should be the outcome of that workshop. In short, what would you like to accomplish.
Let’s begin by inviting a group of people who like to keep their ear to the ground – that is business representatives. It is also worthwhile analysing who is the most decisive person in this group so as not to miss the invitation of the most important "guest" who at the end, might eventually blight the whole contribution which was generated during the workshop.
We should do our best to ensure that during the meeting, all of the people who are responsible for the creative part of a project are present. UX, Designer – those are the roles which entail a concrete knowledge regarding popular trends, patterns and proper practices. Most importantly, they represent the perspective of the final recipient of our product. It is then vital to give the grounds to speak their minds, not only when it comes to defining the design itself, but also when it comes to the overall process. It is advisory, that along with the dawn of the idea itself, UX Designer can sustainably contribute to the creation of the product’s strategy, determine business goals, as well as the direction of the project.
What is important, but oftentimes omitted or underestimated is the technological aspect. It is our pundits who are capable of clarifying for us whether our requirements which we have been generating for the past 4 hours are even able to come into existence.
The sooner we give some thought to the technical aspect itself, the better it will be for us to pick up those elements considered difficult to achieve. In consequence, it can eventually have an effect on our final priorities and MVP (Minimal Value Project) of the project.
What about the users, you might ask. Ideally, they would be a part of our team from the very beginning. Oftentimes, however, the first workshops only define our future audience. Therefore, during our workshop, it is more than suggested to create the so-called personage, who will accompany us in every decision we will try to make. That personage is constantly being improved and developed during the duration of our project. The more we know about our friend, the better we will be able to meet his needs.
To encapsulate – we have a business, which by means of the workshop’s techniques is able to visualise the goal of a project itself and standardise the prospect.
We also have a design, which due to the direct cooperation with our business is able to access the requirements and instil some love and admiration to the user itself, who all in all, will be using our potential concept.
Moreover, there is also a technology, which thanks to the market knowledge, can demarcate certain limitations, but can also provide us with some new opportunities.
Finally, there is a group of people, who through cooperation, have a sense of pursuing one goal. Business will finally have the opportunity to understand this “weird” developer, trying to explain to us, that this cannot be done on the basis of copy-paste. UX Designer will then get out of trying to create an admittedly utopian product, simultaneously satisfying everyone’s needs, but instead, he will also take into account business values. Whereas the developer will learn that backlog won’t pull itself out of the hat, and in fact is speaking in favour of something that really does make sense.
If you are sitting in front of a computer, writing an e-mail regarding a list of requirements for a team of developers, in the hope that by January they will be able to show something… or if you are just laying out a plan of the nearest sprints based on such requirements, you should hear an alarm siren in your head. Loud. But it is not too late.
The ideal time to organise a workshop is when the concept is just being created. When the deadline is too abstract to think about it, and who ultimately will provide what is just clarifying.
The foregoing does not only apply to new projects. That kind of approach is also beneficial when it comes to defining new interfaces, or even, defining the functionality of the already existing ones.
However, if the list has already been written down - fear not. The workshop can bring value regardless of the moment it is carried out. Conducting such a meeting is associated with the prior definition of its purpose.
If we want to bake a cake, we need to know the recipe. The first step to organising such a workshop is to think about the course of action.
First of all, why do you even need a workshop? In spite of the tools you will use - canvases, eventstorming, gamestorming, design-thinking - you should consider expectations for the result. It is also worth sharing these expectations with other participants in the form of an invitation or agenda, so that everyone knows why this is happening in the first place.
Consider which techniques or tools will lead the meeting to the goal. The Internet is full of creative techniques, canvases, and exercises that, if used properly, give really good results. So let's explore the topic and try to find a method in this madness full of self-adhesive notes. Do not underestimate the power of an ordinary brainstorming session. Conducted properly, it can be even more effective than many unskilfully built canvases.
Write a meeting scenario. To avoid surprises, it is a good idea to visualize your course of action. By enumerating step by step what we want to include in it, we have a better chance of "coming out on top" than if we were improvising. The scenario will also allow you to specify the time we need to go through all of the planned steps.
The next step will be a test. Ask a colleague to familiarize with your scenario. Let them share their thoughts and doubts. For example, if he says he does not understand the purpose of the meeting itself, maybe there should be a minute to get everyone acquainted with the goal and course of action. Such a test will allow for even more effective planning of the workshop.
Good to know
Facilitation of the meeting differs from the moderation of the goal. The moderator has the task of watching the structures and forms of the meeting, the facilitator, on the other hand, wants everyone to comment on the discussed topic during the meeting, and that everyone should follow the same direction.
The workshop itself has a value primarily when everyone generates a contribution to the discussion. It is good to think about different techniques of facilitation, which can help to involve not only those charismatic participants in the discussion but also those who seemingly have nothing to say.
The clash of different points of view will solve an array of problems much faster and much more creatively than when they are defined by a smaller, louder handful of people.
Some link regarding the workshop organisation you might find useful: