Editor comment: this article by Toni Steimle and Dieter Wallach originally appeared in Upload magazine (German) and has been changed slightly by our editing team.
When a company develops a new product or service, those responsible often have to deal with intense time pressure as well as manage employees from different departments. Digital products that are becoming more and more complex over time must be conceptualized and implemented in increasingly short timeframes. In this article, Toni Steimle and Dieter Wallach will show you how you can achieve your goals in seven workshops and always keep user experience in mind in their book Collaborative UX Design.
Their approach orchestrates the activities of an interdisciplinary team in collaborative product conception. The cornerstones of collaborative UX design are based on the approaches of design thinking, lean UX, agile development and people-centered models.
The product conception process begins with an analysis of the starting situation and of the problems to be solved: the project’s mission is explained. The team then works iteratively on finding solutions, coming up with various concept variations. The team members then come together to define a roadmap for the implementation of their solution concept.
Let’s take a closer look at the seven workshops. We’ve split up the problem analysis into two workshops:
In the Scoping Workshop, the team refines the core of the project’s mission together with the client. The team establishes the status quo of competing products and characterizes the special features, advantages and disadvantages of these solutions. A significant part of the scoping workshop is discovering the often implicit assumptions behind an order and specifying existing hypotheses about the users of an application. In the scoping workshop, critical assumptions are identified and research measures to review these are chosen.
After the scoping workshop, the defined research measures can be tackled: a work plan to prepare for the next workshop is created.
In the Inspiration & Synthesis Workshop, the team members evaluate the results of research activities. To this end, they create descriptions of existing work processes and identify product changes for their optimization. Analyses in the inspiration & synthesis workshop allow the review of user assumptions and support the formulation of empirically founded personas as user representatives modelled on archetypes. At this point, it is important to reflect on the previously defined project mission: is this still compatible with the new knowledge or are corrections needed? Often, it can be helpful to involve management in inspiration & synthesis workshops.
These two looser workshops have been mostly concerned with establishing a comprehensive understanding of the problem: hypotheses are created, facts collected and hypotheses validated.
The following workshops concentrate on finding solutions.
In the Ideation Workshop, the team searches for solution ideas for identified product opportunities. In the workshop, various creative methods are used to inspire the team: the workshop’s aim is to generate the widest possible variety of ideas. The result of the ideation workshop is a prioritized catalog of product design ideas.
In the Concept Workshop, participants develop the completed catalog of ideas to come up with a coherent solution concept. They develop a vision of possible use scenarios and use this as the foundations to come up with an image of a solution’s future functionality. An initial, and abstract at first, view of the future product’s user interface is created in the content workshop. This is then specified until there is a concept suggestion for the product.
There are even more assumptions behind the complete concept suggestion: assumptions about user needs and the suitability of certain solutions. The identification of these assumptions forms the object of a Prototyping Workshop, aiming to create an initial interactive version of the product concept. The prototype’s validation is the core focus of the upcoming validation workshop. For this following workshop, the team members come up with a validation plan in the prototyping workshop that outlines what kind of prototype is suitable to validate the concept. They then begin to develop a prototype together. The aim isn’t to specify the solution, rather primarily to prepare the concept review.
After the prototyping workshop, the prototype is finalized and tested. It is then possible to observe users using the prototype so that feedback can impact the further development of the concepts.
As already mentioned, participants evaluate the results of these observations in the Validation Workshop. They compile the recorded observations, before categorizing and weighting them. In the validation workshop, they continue to consider the originally defined assumptions and evaluate whether the developed concept is based on suitably robust foundations. If this question can be answered in the affirmative, the concept can be implemented in a small release and market feedback collected.
In the last workshop — MVP planning— the team creates a product roadmap. The goal is to determine an initial minimal version of a compelling release, a minimum viable product. To this end, the team re-prioritizes the relevant product functionalities. Team members must take various factors into consideration, such as expected benefits for users and customers, contribution to the achievement of business aims and the cost of implementation. They choose the roadmap to allow for the formulation of reviewable hypotheses.
In the second part of the article, you can find out more about the basic principles that guide a workshop to success, as well as practice-oriented examples.