Exploring UX workshops

Usability | January 2018

exploring ux workshops participants seen through glass screenWorkshops empower your team and consolidate knowledge

Exploring UX workshops are just one of our range of themed UX workshops – others include Understanding, Imagining, and Making. We love running these events because they are so productive and rewarding, helping client teams come together to work on an existing issue or new concept.

We’ve been running client workshops for many years, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. In this article we focus on the theme of ‘Exploring’: keep an eye on our future newsletters to find out more about the other themes, or read a quick overview.


What benefits do UX workshops bring?

Getting everyone to look beyond day-to-day business to more strategic challenges isn’t easy. UX workshops give you the opportunity to bring together individuals from across a team or organisation, to focus on and tackle a problem or new concept.

Customer journey mapping

commuters in rush housrWe’ve recently been running workshops for high profile clients in the charity and travel sectors. Focusing on and mapping their customers’ journeys has enabled them to engage their teams and build empathy for their customers. By collaboratively identifying key moments that make or break the customer journey, these sessions generate ideas and build better, collectively owned solutions.

Align expectations and priorities

Time and again, we hear from our clients that the core value of UX workshops comes from one simple factor: it’s so powerful having your team in the same room at the same time to focus on a problem. Whether it’s for a couple of hours, a full day or for a multi-day Sprint, coming together for a workshop allows teams to consolidate knowledge and align expectations and priorities going forward.

Whether discussing how user research can be taken forward or building and testing an interactive prototype, channelling input from team members adds value to almost any project.

How Workshops add value to almost any project

  • Create focus. We’ve found that taking people away from their day-to-day responsibilities, even just for a couple of hours, and making one issue a priority for the time they’re in the room, gets things done.
  • Drive collaboration. When individuals from different roles have the chance to share insights from each of their areas of expertise, the best ideas are generated.
  • Generate buy-in. Having spent those few hours intensively collaborating on a task, those who attend become heavily invested in the outcome and follow-on activities. They understand where the idea has come from, and everyone has had their say up-front.

Why Exploring UX workshops?

Exploring UX workshops tend to take place at the start of a design process. They are about getting to know the behaviour of customers, and finding inspiration on how to meet their needs. This might be done at the start of a project to consolidate existing knowledge about customers, and identify priorities for ongoing work.

speech bubblesWe’ve found it’s often the case that the individuals who work on products and services have a wealth of knowledge that is not typically formalised in the same way that user research findings are.

Bringing the team together in an Exploring UX workshop gives everyone the chance to consolidate their knowledge and priorities. Outcomes can be documented and referred back to, as key business decisions are made.

Our Exploring UX workshops might broadly be used to:

  • Identify any big questions you are facing as a business and plan a UX strategy for addressing them.
  • Explore what is known about users at the moment, what is not yet known and what can be addressed with user research.
  • Apply what is already known from user research to develop personas or user story maps.
  • Put the team in the customer’s shoes to walk through scenarios and generate empathy.

Principles for success

people iconFrom our experience, we’ve identified a few key principles we would recommend following when planning and running a workshop, particularly around the theme of ‘Exploring’.

  • First, we recommend inviting stakeholders from across the team (or even further afield), as well as the decision maker, who will make sure ideas can be turned around quickly. Those who have involvement in the product from developing strategy to writing code will each bring insights from their area of expertise, to aid understand the existing state of play and opportunities for further development. Generally, the more varied the range of viewpoints, the better.
  • Second, we strongly recommend keeping the workshop focused around one or two key objectives. Trying to fit too much in is likely to achieve less rather than more. Think carefully about what is achievable in the time you have available.
  • Third, establish some ground rules at the start of the workshop: the time you’ve booked out is valuable, so make sure it’s used as efficiently and productively as possible. Typical ground rules include muting phones, not talking over one another, and listening to each person’s perspective without judgement.
  • Fourth, workshops work best when participants think creatively. We like to start with a quick icebreaker activity that gets participants to do something outside of their comfort zone but also low risk – drawing a portrait of another participant, or writing a slogan for what they want to achieve, for instance. Once they’ve warmed up, keep up this creative energy with activities that get participants thinking about the goal in innovative ways.
  • Finally, document as much as possible about what happens in the workshop, as well as any outcomes. Make sure all decisions are written down, take lots of photos, and keep your workshop outputs somewhere all participants can easily access. Visual documents that can be printed and referred to when making decisions are a useful output, as are living documents that can be updated as ideas evolve. Make sure the outputs are taken forward and the workshop discussions remain in participants’ minds.

Exploring UX workshops address the big questions

With careful planning around a key objective, workshops can be an efficient and productive way to explore the big questions you are facing as a business. If you’re looking for some guidance on how to move forward, our consultants are here to help.

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