How I run Ideation workshop to hear “the voice” of the team.

I missed a step in my previous article on purpose. I was planning to write a separate article about that and here it is.

When I was completing my UX training by Chris Nodder I liked a technique called “Ideation” and I have decided to hack it and to use it for my own purposes – as a product person.

So here’s what I did:

Booked a room:

I booked a meeting room for 2 hours. There is no special requirement for the room – you just need a table, a few chairs and a projector. You can also do it in a quiet working space with no cubicles or in a non-smoking bar.

Provided some sweets:

I’ve bought some sweets, to help people concentrate on the topic while doing something with their brains, their hands and their jaws. Later I realized that it would have been nicer if I had brought fresh fruits or something more healthier (I’ve red that in a book called (Design)“Sprint” written by a couple of Google Venture folks).

Provided the tools:

I bought colored pencils and I printed out lots of templates to be used during the workshop.

The template

Ran the workshop:

So, yes, the workshop – the idea was to get different people together working on a task to get some ideas and fresh views.

I invited people from different teams – I got a couple of QA guys, a few of Business Analysts and a bunch of programmers.

Then I randomly divided them in teams. And I gave them the task – a short list of user requirements with the question: How would you do this? Use your imagination and the template to create a simple prototype for just 15 minutes.

There were a few basic rules:

  • The requirements must be always visible on the screen
  • You can ask me questions if you have any (I was the customer)
  • Don’t talk, just prototype and eat sweets.

After this 15 min period, every team had 2 min to present their work in front of the others. There was no opportunity to ask questions during or after the process.
Here are some of the results:
A few ideas A few more ideas more ideas

and even more ideas

As you can see – you can do whatever you want, but you have to be able to explain it after that to the rest of the team and to focus on how it fits the customer requirements.

Anyone can prototype!

We repeated this with a few more requirements and at the end we had a lot of ideas to discuss with the rest of the team.

The outcome:

The goal of this workshop was to hear “the voice” of the whole team. Some guys are shy (mostly the developers, oops) and can’t share their ideas while we are discussing in a meeting.

The output was to generate ideas and to show great approaches on how we can solve a customer pain point.

Solving customer pain point through simple prototyping and using my 20/10 rule

Prototyping is part of my work. I don’t trust product owners or analysts that do not prototype ideas and share them with the customer or another stakeholder. I will tell you more now about my strategy and I hope it can be useful for you.

I have grown the ability to listen, remember and prototype nearly live time, but since my buffer size is not so large I ask the customer to do short 30 min iterations, instead of just Q&A for 1 hour.

How does it usually work?

 

First meeting

Let’s have this imaginary situation – a customer approached me to create a very simple (from hers point of view) application to help her to run their business better. The first 20 minutes of our discussion I have been asking questions and in the next 10 I have been able to come up with an idea. After 30 minutes I had this ready – ugly, but useful

Prototype on Paper

Prototype on Paper

The customer was happy with the development, so we moved on to the next screens, again using 20+10-minute approach. At the end of the second working session, I had the full concept on paper together with a lot of notes and small indicators of interaction. (see the arrows and the kpi indicators)

 

Second meeting

I put all of these papers on a wall and I have created the first digital mock-up by using balsamiq (one of my favorite tools). I tried to make it as close to the paper version as possible spending half a day in just making it “clickable”, so I can present it later faster.

 

Digital Mock-up produced after the first meeting.

Digital Mock-up produced after the first meeting.

 

After that I had a presentation session with larger group of stakeholders (from customer’s side). In general they liked what they saw and asked when they could play with it. I told them I would give them a prototype in a week, noting that the prototype would not look like the one they saw today since the appearance would have to come come from our design team (mainly thinking about UX guys first). The agreed principles, however, would remain the same.

 

Third meeting

With all the screens and my notes I contacted our UX guys and Information architects. They gave me some advices on how to incorporate our company style, usability patterns, and UI into the prototype, using the information I have collected. The final result was smashing. I have created a small Js APP using the company framework to make a real looking prototype.

 

Part of the JS solution

Part of the JS solution

Another view of the JS prototype

Another view of the JS prototype

The customer was happy with the job we have done. I gave them the prototype to play with and we tracked their way of learning the new interfaces and their journey inside the app. We have collected useful data and that helped us a lot in developing the product.  By knowing what everyone expects I can write better tasks to the developers and will shorten my communication time with the customer and other stakeholders.

It was a huge success and I am planning to use this approach again.

Voice-controlled UI plus a TTS engine.

A few days ago I’ve attended the launch of SohoXI – Hook and Loop’s latest product that aims to change the look and feel of the Enterprise applications forever. I am close to believing that and not only because I work for the same company as they do.

They have delivered extremely revolutionary UI in order to take the ugly enterprise UI and UX to a whole new level – and it is more awesome than ever. Unfortunately I am now allowed to share more on that topic, but you can follow their blog.

I’ve mentioned them, because I’ve created a small app based on their work and on some open source projects to control the UI with my voice.

Is this the future of the Enterprise applications? Maybe, but hey it’s real fun if one application is talking to you and you talking to it back changing the UI with your voice and no other input devices.

How cool is that? See a small part of the experiment here (pardon my English)

Oh yes, everything is HTML/CSS and JS :)


Click here for a full-size video

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