When it comes to enterprise product development, aligning multiple views is a stumbling block even for mature organizations. From connecting distributed teams and finding effective collaboration tools to overcoming biases and making sure all ideas are validated—there is no easy way to solve complex tasks. This is especially true for experience design, where poor decisions account for 35% of sales losses.
Turning fruitless online conversations between design teams, stakeholders, and practitioners into productive brainstorming sessions, where each member is involved and responsible for the outcome is a move many businesses would love to make.
Design workshops are a common yet effective way to develop a realistic product vision as well as define and address the challenges users are having with your software solution. It’s a universal tool that applies to every phase of design thinking.
In this blog post, we’ll explain the practical use of UX design workshops and share best practices that help us get the maximum value from design thinking.
What are UX design workshops?
Design workshops are active collaborative sessions aimed at collecting unbiased opinions within a team to further use them for solving existing design problems.
Workshops are literally about bringing design, management, and stakeholder teams together to work towards a common goal. We sit down to define issues, talk, listen to opinions, and have them aligned.
Among the number of methods for collaborative communication in product development, design workshops are deservedly the most effective one.
One of the main misconceptions among enterprise product managers is that they can collect requirements during casual verbal communication with stakeholders, forward them to a design team, and wait until they are implemented. In reality, this approach is a waste of time and money without an experienced facilitator, as there is always a risk of giving into biases
In contrast to conventional meetings, workshops have a specific narrow scope (only one goal at a time) and a defined structure for active communication. They usually take from half a day to day and require thorough preparation, which includes selecting the necessary materials, communication tools, and group activities.
So, design thinking workshops are a useful enterprise-scale tool that helps to reach a consensus and make sure everyone involved in product development accepts it for objective reasons.
Why design thinking is the basis for innovation?
Who participates in design workshops?
If design workshops are about actionable communication between the parties involved in the design process, let’s clarify who these parties are.
In general, the roles participating in design workshops range from business managers and members of the IT department to analysts, QA engineers, and DevOps. At the same time, there are only two parties for all the roles mentioned, and they remain the same for all types of design thinking workshops.
1. Stakeholders or those who operate funds and benefit from their appropriate allocation directly. They aim to solve a problem within a specified time and budget.
2. Practitioners are usually represented by managers and real users of a product. During a workshop, it’s important to find the best way for them to use the product. So, they are interested in how the problem will be solved.
From this perspective, the main idea of product design workshops is to achieve the aims of both parties within a single plane.
Types of design workshops
As a part of the design thinking methodology, all UX workshops are traditionally divided into five types that logically correspond to the design thinking phases.
UX WORKSHOP TYPE
DESCRIPTION AND PURPOSE
In this phase, the aim is to share knowledge about the current situation, understand business requirements, and agree on a single opinion among the workshop participants.
Team members build a user-centered approach to solving issues. The aim is to arrive at a shared understanding of user needs, motivations, and behavior before designing the solution.
Brainstorming to generate ideas for solving a specific business challenge and forming a shared UX vision.
Defining key implementations, forming product roadmap, understanding key initiatives, and aligning scope details.
A workshop hosted for and by the design team. Evaluating if created designs can solve existing objectives, thinking of improvements, and sharing feedback.
In addition to this classification developed by Nielsen and Norman Group, there are hybrid UX design workshops. Such sessions combine exercises of different workshop types and are used whenever the design team considers they can bring additional value to the process. For example, adding feedback sharing to discovery or empathy workshops to squeeze out the maximum value of the generated ideas and user needs.
Planning a design workshop: expectations and results
Whenever teams approach design workshops, they strive to make the most of them, and as a result, form a unified and relevant product vision. To do that, workshops need to be thoroughly prepared, well-planned and accurately facilitated.
A general workshop structure follows a simple logic: opinions are collected, sorted, validated, prioritized, and analyzed to make vital product decisions. The flow, however, can be adjusted depending on the goal a product team aims to achieve, how strong the biases are, and the results of specific activities and exercises during a workshop. Let us explain how it worked with one of our Fortune 500 clients.
Enterprises think big. That’s why approaching design workshops, they often swing at creating all-encompassing solutions at once. To help them define what’s first on their product agenda, we develop a flow that would accurately bring teams to understanding their real priorities and show what it takes to implement those.
finding an effective way of solving routine accounting and bookkeeping tasks for 4 business units
- Forming a unified product vision
- Defining a set of features that satisfy multiple teams and user roles
- Overcoming domination of biased opinions
The result of a design workshop is a report that describes the initial questions and answers the team got during the workshop, exercises done to get those questions and validate them, as well as key takeaways that will act as the basis for further implementations. In fact, this report is a set of high-level technical requirements that were collected, validated, and agreed upon by all key stakeholders and practitioners.
Typical activities during UX design workshops
To make design workshops structured, engaging, and diversify the brainstorming process, followers of design thinking define a basic set of effective activities and exercises
- A post-up. Involves writing ideas down on sticky notes or a digital whiteboard to collect the opinions and experiences of workshop participants.
- Affinity diagramming. Spotting similar ideas and grouping them to trace common tendencies and define key focus areas.
- Landscape mapping. Ordering the groups of notes on the canvas according to the cause-and-effect patterns to decide on future priorities.
- Forced ranking. Evaluating the ideas using a set of objective criteria in case a compromise is required by giving them a certain score.
- Storyboarding. Defining user scenarios to visualize in detail how the realization of ideas will help to solve specific user challenges.
- Role-playing. Assigning roles in user scenarios to workshop members and playing out the scenarios to build empathy and visualize the practical value of suggested solutions.
- Playback. Presenting or summarizing workshop or exercise results to make sure opinions are fully aligned and a common vision is formed.
However, it’s not only activities, exercises, or structure that define the success of a design workshop.
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What makes an effective workshop
An effective design workshop provides stakeholders and practitioners with actionable insights into user scenarios and allows them to create valuable products. As a result, businesses can focus on what really matters for users, wisely allocate budgets, get measurable results, and scale.
We can call a workshop effective when teams leave it with a clear understanding of what should be done and why.
Among the factors that have proved to contribute to design workshops’ success are:
- Making the user the cornerstone of the design process
- Ensuring that the workshop facilitator can remain unbiased
- The ability to maintain the right balance between business goals and user needs
Aiming to make your design workshop effective, eat one bite at a time. Asking too many questions, you’ll never get all of them answered. Instead, focus on solving one major goal and let the process work its magic.
Design workshops are just an example of how research design and design thinking transform enterprise product development. With years of experience working with enterprise businesses, we understand the real value of product design workshops and know how to make the most of actionable communication.
Here at Trinetix, we deliver human-centric design experiences and never stop mastering new ways of solving complex enterprise problems. Let’s chat about the impact design thinking can bring on your product and make it happen together.