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What's the point of a design discovery workshop?

Posted by Laurel Gattenby on Jan 31, 2019 8:21:16 AM

I always get excited when people ask me about design workshops. In my experience, they’ve been an incredibly useful tool when kicking off projects of all sizes. They’re so useful in fact, that I’m always baffled if clients don’t want to spend time in them. That’s why I thought I’d write a few key ways that a workshop can help your next app development project!

Refining ideas

Sometimes a client will come to me with only a very rough idea of what they’d like for their next product. This could be a few sketches, a key goal that needs to be met, or a problem that needs solving. There’s a misconception that a lot of discussion and planning has to be done on the business side before any design can start. I’ve found a lot of success jumping right in. A design workshop can help break down a simple idea into a usable feature list, which can be turned into a design prototype. This can then be taken to key stakeholders to get buy-in, give feedback and hopefully sign off. We can also use design prototypes in user testing sessions, to get the product in the hands of users before any development time is spent. That’s the great thing about design prototypes - iteration is rapid, so we can try different ideas.

Workshops break down silos

Silo mentality is a problem on some level at most organisations I’ve worked with. Whether it be teams disconnected from stakeholders, or lack of input from the entire team until it’s too late to make changes in the product. Silo mentality can cause big problems if it isn’t recognised and dealt with. That’s why I always encourage as many different team members to attend my workshops as possible. I especially love it when employees who usually don’t get invited to design meetings are able to attend. It’s easy to forget that customer service representatives, help desk staff, or complaints officers can offer the most valuable insight.

Stakeholder buy-in

It’s a pretty common situation when starting a development project to work with an intermediary who communicates decisions to the stakeholder(s). This can lead to miscommunication of ideas, or a lot of time-consuming back and forth. I’ve found that inviting stakeholders to a design workshop allows me to get a much clearer idea of what they’re looking leads to faster design sign-off, better team communication, and a smoother project overall.

What exactly is a workshop?

I know you’re probably thinking, "this is great Laurel, but I still have no idea what a design workshop is.” Let’s talk about that.

A design workshop is a tool that I (as a designer and project manager) use to kick off projects. It allows me to meet the team, and gather everyone’s ideas about potential features, plans for the product I’ll be designing, user needs, etc.

It also gives me a collaborative space to ask questions, and encourage discussion. I make this happen through a combination of discussion, activities and feature mapping exercises. Ideally, at the end of a workshop I have all the information that I need to go away and create the first iteration of the designs.

Basically, it breaks down to one simple concept; you have the knowledge, and I have the UX process. I can’t design the right product for your business without understanding it, and that means as many parts of it as possible. By getting everyone together at the beginning, we can get projects off to a great start.

Talk to us about booking a design discovery workshop!

Topics: member engagement, content engagement, leadership, transformation

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