Every product workshop should be tailored to the needs of your client and their product.
Workshops are a natural way for designers to work. They are hands-on, team-based meetings that also involve non-designers.
Before we start planning the product design activities, we should think about: what goals we want to achieve? What do we need to accomplish these goals? Do we have enough collected feedback from the client to be able to conduct such workshops?
These goals may range from defining project requirements, through identifying user needs, to generating ideas and working on a solution implementation plan.
Workshops can be a one-time event, such as an idea brainstorming session, but they can also be a series of meetings integral to a longer design process.
Running product design workshops
Once we know the answers to these questions and what we want to achieve we should move on to planning our activities.
At Applover, we run workshops mostly remotely, so it’s a good idea to take care of a few key elements:
1. Defining roles and responsibilities
Running workshops remotely is a bit more complicated than running them in person. From the very beginning, it’s worth defining specific roles for the workshop participants on our side. The person who implements this task is responsible for leading the group to the goal but has less ability to control the actions and ensure comfort compared to stationary workshops.
We can separate roles such as:
- Leader – supervises the course of an online meeting, presents and leads discussions, and explains instructions to tasks.
- Helpers – notes conclusions and findings, keeps track of time, assists participants during subgroup tasks.
- Technical support – a person who divides participants into groups, responds to comments in the chat and solves technical problems.
2. Relationship building
In a physical space, there are many ways for helping people get used to a new situation (like shaking hands for a greeting or some chatting). Such ways of establishing contact should also be used in remote work.
Of course, besides focusing on the main objective of the workshop, it’s worth inserting casual forms of conversations in between so that it’s not just going through various tasks but also a dialogue with the client. Gesturing, and expressing opinion by facial expression are very important here. We always suggest that all participants have their cameras on – so that everyone can see each other and have the possibility of a deeper interaction between them.
3. Managing the focus
Many distractions affect participants’ energy, concentration, and involvement in a remote environment. This includes notifications from multiple instant messengers, the sound of children playing behind the wall, delays by weaker Internet connection, or simply speech disruptions. However, distractions will become less of an issue if you provide appropriate activities.
Engage participants in activities as quickly as possible to take them out of observer mode: ask questions, brainstorm ideas, and prioritize. When discussing the exercises, you can ask the next participant to complement the statements of the previous one. This will encourage the participants to listen carefully and speed up the whole process of discussing the conclusions. It’s also important to include and foresee regular breaks in the course of workshops. They will allow participants to ‘reset’ for a moment and return to the next activity with a fresh mind.
What does the design workshop structure look like?
The product workshop includes three steps – opening, exploration, and closing.
Opening provokes to think and should introduce participants to the workshop topic, explore ideas, and spark discussion among participants.
The main methods we use as a so-called warm-up are:
- Poster – based on the workshop leader’s instructions, the participants fill in the pieces of paper on their own for the given question. Then, after a certain time (usually 10 to 15 minutes), each participant presents his/her answers in front of the group.
- Superpower – the participants introduce themselves and their superpower just like superheroes. It’s a technique we use quite often. Of course, it has to be adjusted to the specific client so it won’t always work in practice. You can look for superpowers alone or in pairs, and they can be realistic or more abstract.
- Persona – completing and creating selected customer personas by the participants. I’d say it’s not quite a common practice. We sometimes use it just in the first part. It allows us to have nice interactions, exchange options, provoke us to think, and mostly stimulate creative thinking.
- Empathy map – a simple method to profile users. It helps to better understand what people are thinking and feeling as well as to focus on their experiences and needs. We use this activity often in the form of brainstorming with the whole workshop group.
Exploration stimulates and collects inferences, helps to explore and generate ideas, and organizes our existing findings.
- User story mapping – this is our main workshop activity. Often, with an effective kick-off call, we can define initial user stories, present them to the client during the workshop, and draw conclusions from each story. This is a great task that later makes it easier for our Project Managers to write product specifications and plan UX (user experience) mockups.
- User flow – during the workshops we often create the whole user flow of the product. We focus here on drawing it out as precisely as possible, logically arranging the whole flow and predicting all the flows at this stage.
Closing is usually a summary of our workshop activities, evaluating ideas, prioritizing them, making concrete decisions as well as next steps.
- Next steps – we sometimes use this method (especially in internal workshops) to assign tasks to particular people, including the time of completion. Together with the participants, we determine the next steps, completing the table with three columns:
- WHO: the responsible person,
- WHAT: the task to be performed,
- WHEN: deadline.
- MoSCoW – through this method, we can prioritize our actions based on the following categories.
- Plus and delta plus – a technique we use more for internal workshops that allows us to conclude the workshop. Participants write the feedback on a piece of paper: plus for what they liked and delta plus for what they would like to change for the better.
Do you want to find out more about product development at Applover?
Design workshops are about people
The most important thing for product design workshops is to work with people. Remember that not everything we can predict and even the best plans may not withstand the clash with reality.
An element of surprise and innovation is a natural part of designing. It’s good being open to them. Effective design workshops are not only good planning but also the art of improvisation. The most important thing is that they lead to the intended goal.