What does a typical UX workshop look like
How UX professionals collaborate on delivery results
82% of UX professionals work in a variety of ways with other team members on delivery results.
by Page Laubheimer (German translation) - January 3, 2016
Creating and refining UX delivery results is usually not a lonely job and we often see UX professionals working with other team members to create documents or design artifacts. We recently conducted a survey with86 UX experts to better understand if and how they work with others to produce deliverables such as wireframes, models, or presentations. The interviewed professionals held both internal and consulting positions and worked, among other things, as visual designers, interaction designers and UX researchers.
Cooperation is common
In our survey, 82% of respondents said they either often (52%) or sometimes (30%) collaborate with others on their delivery results. Only 18% rarely or never work with others. An 82% vs. 18% ratio is far more biased than most of the other UX method topics we investigate: People are 5 times more likely to work together than to work on UX delivery results on their own.
So why are they working together?
Other people = more ideas
A typical problem for UX professionals is that they start a project by establishing the prerequisites with other project participants. You start with a single idea and then revise the design again and again. We often see UX team members iteratively developing an idea using mockups, prototypes, mood boards or drafts and then spending an enormous amount of time testing, refining and presenting it to project participants until it is perfect.
However, you could save a lot of time and effort if you start with several different ideas and then work on combining the best aspects of all designs. As a result, tests will provide deeper insights, iterations will be smoother and faster, and you will save money (and valuable time). To make this process as effective as possible, however, you need to work with others to gather the initial ideas.
This topic was also addressed in our survey: Idea generation and brainstorming are among the most important reasons to collaborate with other team members - especially on design deliverables. Many of the respondents stated that the collaboration was mainly for that divergent thinking to leverage, a process by which multiple options and ideas are gathered before choosing a direction and refining the idea. For example, one respondent stated:
"I often do wireframes with someone else at the same time to make sure we get different ideas."
The goal of this activity is to avoid bias and create a more robust design as several alternatives are compared and combined into a common idea. By working with people outside of the UX discipline (product owners, business analysts, engineers, and senior clients), collecting multiple solutions to a problem broadens your perspective - it also takes into account “unconventional” ideas.
So far so good, but how do you get busy people to take the time to work together in this way?
Workshops promote cross-departmental brainstorming
In our survey, face-to-face workshops and design studio activities were popular ways to attract a wide audience to participate. Respondents noted that whiteboarding sessions and Charette sketching allow many different types of team members (e.g., developers, company stakeholders, designers, and product managers) to get involved in the early stages of creating design delivery results. These sessions do not have to be complex, all-day events. One to two hours and some sketch paper are enough to learn more about the ideas of everyone involved in the project. In addition, such meetings are dynamic, fun and will be remembered by those involved in the project, which may even mean that your audience grows with each workshop.
Most of the respondents indicated that these workshops were face-to-face meetings in a common location (for example, a traditional office) and not in a remote, virtual environment. However, remote services such as Google Docs or screen sharing were used to present the early stages of delivery results and to obtain feedback and suggestions for improvement.
Here's another common trap when it comes to delivery results: an interaction designer keeps working on a prototype, ironing out every flaw until they create a great experience for every scenario they can think of. After he has gathered the project participants and presented his idea, the very first question from an executive brings to light a gaping gap in his project, for example: "What happens if users want to change the email address of their accounts?" He feels exposed in front of the full seminar room and thinks: "How could I overlook something so fundamental?"
If design ideas are worked on together, such slip-ups can be avoided.
In our survey, 31% of respondents said they wanted to show their delivery results to other team members Bias, Flaws, and Open Points found in their work. One designer called this procedure the “four eyes principle” (or “four eyes see more than two”) in order to find errors or omissions before the delivery item is presented to a larger audience (especially those involved in the company and customers).
Another respondent noted that the four-eyes principle is also a way to determine the suitability of designs before usability tests are carried out. Why waste test users' time trying to find a usability problem that your colleague would have discovered too? It is important to note, however, that multiple revisions of the same delivery item do not mean that usability tests become superfluous after weaknesses have been ironed out. However, this process ensures that the test users' time is used to identify deep, subtle problems.
“Each team member is the first resource to gauge user reaction. I rely on the team's combined intelligence to gain insight and prevent bias. I also test ideas on my family, friends, and sometimes the public. All of this takes place before the organized user tests. "
Collaboration is not only advisable for design delivery results
Cooperation is not only recommended for design delivery items such as wireframes, prototypes or drafts, but also for delivery results from the area of user research, such as reports, presentations and data analysis. Working together on these latter things leads to more ideas, fewer open questions, and a lower workload. The evaluation effect, documented by Hertzum and Jacobsen in 2001, shows that evaluators using the same usability method find different user interface problems. The more UX experts review your data, the more insights you will get.
Several of our survey participants indicated that they work with other team members to analyze data: either results from usability tests or analytics data from websites. When working together on affinity diagrams to categorize issues and identify topics, or when videos of test sessions are viewed and debated together, it is easier for multiple employees to spot issues that might otherwise be overlooked.
Sometimes the collaboration resulted in less work for individual team members. For example, one UX professional mentioned that his UX team split the work on a usability report, with each person contributing a different part of the report that was then put together.
Who should you be working with?
As part of our survey, participants reported that they work with different audiences to produce a stronger delivery result before it is presented to decision makers. Engineers and developers, other UX specialists, product managers and business analysts were named the best partners. One respondent indicated that employees in different positions can improve different aspects of delivery results:
"I work with the business / performance management / product departments to get feedback on business goals and success criteria, [and] work with developers on technical feasibility and development planning."
The typical form of collaboration was for UX team members to work with company stakeholders (such as product / project managers and business analysts) to identify requirements and discuss design ideas in an informal setting. In addition, the extensive collaboration with developers helped to assess the feasibility of the proposed solution before the delivery results were finally presented to executives and higher-level decision-makers and their feedback or approval was obtained.
Our study participants also often worked with other UX professionals, even if they weren't necessarily part of the same team. Respondents said they found it useful to be able to talk about ideas with a specialist in the same discipline - even if it was just an informal conversation. Marketing team members and graphic designers also played a small but noisy role in our survey and were often able to provide further help in areas of brand development, business needs, and aesthetics.
Customers and senior stakeholders were rarely an active part of the collaboration to create delivery items. However, the target group provided feedback when assessing and approving the delivery item. Strictly speaking, this feedback is not a contribution to the delivery items, but it is an important part of the iterative design process.
What to do when you are all alone
If you are the only UX professional in your company or department, you can still benefit from collaboration in a number of ways. If there are people in similar positions in other departments, these colleagues could still help you - even if they are not familiar with every detail of your project. (Our survey found that a new perspective is one of the most important benefits of working together.) Conversely, you can help them and find new ideas at the same time while looking at their delivery results.
Even if you really are the only UX professional in the entire company, working on your delivery results with non-UX professionals such as business analysts and developers is valuable. The more isolated you are, the more important some type of feedback is. To expand our analogy, your delivery item may only be checked by three instead of four eyes - but that is still better than if only you had seen the delivery results designed yourself.
The production of delivery results, like many other UX activities, is an increasingly collaborative process and UX professionals often try to combine the activities of cross-functional teams. The benefits of working together range from finding new design ideas and validating insights to removing potential blind spots and reducing workload.
Common methods of collaboration are:
- Get input on goals and priorities from business stakeholders
- Learn more about the technical complexity of the project from developers
- Iterations with other UX professionals
- Design workshops with the entire teamReference
Hertzum, M., Jacobsen, N. (2001). The evaluator’s effect: A chilling fact about usability evaluation methods. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 13, pp. 421-443.
© German version. Institute for Software Ergonomics and Usability AG. All rights reserved.
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