Do you have user experience in your job title?
That means you do all the ‘user experience’ stuff by yourself… right? Of course in truth you know that user experience is a team sport. In fact you need the entire organization to be onboard. Unfortunately the task of making that happen falls to you. Good luck with that.
One thing you can do is start running user experience workshops. They are a chance to get stakeholders thinking about user needs. A chance to educate them about best practice and get them excited about the potential. At least it is if you do it right.
Workshops can also go horribly wrong. As a UX consultant, I’ve been in workshops that have devolved into departmental infighting or design by committee. I have watched one or two big mouths dominate (and no I am not talking about me!
But don’t let that put you off. It doesn’t take much to run them right. What follows is a few of my top tips for running your next user experience workshop.
1. Focus on users.
Do not allow your UX workshop to devolve into discussing features. Keep it focused on user needs.
This sounds like an obvious one, but it is amazing how often a workshop will lose focus. Conversations turn to features and departmental objectives.
Make sure you define your audiences early in the workshop. But don’t stop there. Spend time discussing their needs, journey and what questions they have along the way.
2. Define your digital goals.
Next up make sure you have some defined goals for digital. This will provide a framework for your discussion and stop the group wandering off on flights of fancy. Without clear goals you will find them launching yet another mobile app before you blink.
If this is your first workshop, take time to define the goals for digital as part of the session. If you have run workshops before, make sure you pin up the goals you agreed for all to see. They will keep you on track.
3. Make it fun.
A user experience workshop is as much about winning hearts and minds as anything else. It is about showing attendees the value of user experience and getting them enthused. As such, it is important it is an engaging fun day. A day where they go away fired up about the possibilities.
That means it’s important to create momentum and a fun atmosphere. Without that it becomes just another meeting. Just another issue that needs resolving.
I like to make things competitive. Set one team against another producing ideas. Get them presenting those ideas in a talent show format or do exercises against the clock. Also it never hurts to have donuts or cupcakes as prizes.
4. Don’t start designing pages.
When talking about user experience, it is tempting to dive into wireframing key pages. This does have it’s place, but don’t do so too early. You will find the workshop bogged down in politics, arguments over content or personal opinions on design.
Instead, try designing a book jacket to help people prioritize content. The most important messages will go on the front, followed by the back, spine and inside flap. Because this is not a final deliverable, everybody will relax and be less precious.
I know it sounds strange, but you can also get people designing a reception area. Their choices about the furniture, wallpaper, pictures and signage can inspire your design. They will talk about color, textures, styling and other aspects of how they want to present themselves to the world.
5. Vary your exercises.
No matter how fun the exercise, it will become boring if you do the same thing again and again. Make sure you use a variety of approaches. In one exercise, get them voting on a list of objectives. In the next, get them drawing pictures to represent their vision of the future.
I would like to tell you that coming up with a selection of exercises takes years of experience. But you can just go to gamestorming.com and get loads of ideas.
6. Use voting to keep momentum.
One thing that can kill the momentum and fun of a workshop is discussing decisions. This is also the point where things turn into design by committee.
One person expresses one point of view and another opposes them. This can lead to confrontation. Or even worse it could lead to compromise. Compromise is where the group tries to reach a consensus and produces something nobody is happy with.
One solution is to get people to vote. Voting is a quick way of reaching a decision. But it can also be a great way of leveling the playing field. If a senior manager is in the room or a particularly dominant person, voting can stop them from holding too much sway.