Product Design

Oct. 18, 2017

/ product design

Product design workshops - best start to the web development process

Maria Borowy

Workshops are an essential step in the web development process since they provide many benefits to both customers and the development team. In my article I will show you that time spent on workshops with a software house is never wasted.

Designing products, services, or websites is a complex process that will take a lot of time and attention. The better we use this time, the greater the chance of creating a product that reaches its intended business goals is going to be loved by its users. That's why product design is a process that must be done before the development is even started - to allow the team to really understand the product and be prepared for every possible obstacle. This process contains following phases: 

  1. describing product's goal / the analysis of user’s needs / defining business objectives;
  2. functions and content discovery;
  3. creating interaction design and information architecture;
  4. web page design (wireframes, prototypes) / navigation design;
  5. graphic design.

In Merixstudio, we go through this whole process with clients. The first two phases happen completely during workshops - working on the latter is started, but then separately continued by UX and UI Designers. Each workshop session includes client or user, as well as a dedicated team of UX designer, UI designer, Project Manager, and Developers.
 

When it comes to clients, our aim is to include someone who can make decisions regarding the project. Apart from the Product Owner, in the ideal scenario there would be a person that can share his or her experience with current processes, has a contact with clients, will be responsible for advertisement, or has knowledge about the technical problems that need to be solved. Who attends a particular workshop depends entirely on what kind of business the client owns, but the key decision maker must be included.

“Design provides true product definition, based on user goals, business needs, and technology constraints.”

"About the face" A. Cooper, R. Reimann, D. Cronin, Ch. Noessel

We offer workshops for new ideas, where assumptions are not yet clear, as well as for the projects that are already designed. While creating something from the beginning, we share our experience in building UX strategy, design, and development. This way we can tailor a product that will meet both users expectations and business objectives. When it comes to products that are already designed, we offer a revision for the estimation and a better understanding of the project.

In the end, we’ll receive a product or service that's properly defined and placed in the context. From this point on, we’ll be able to create well-designed wireframes and UI elements that correspond directly with user needs, business requirements, and design principles.

Step by step of the workshop

There are no universal agendas for each session. Every workshop is designed for the particular product or service we will work on. Before the workshop, we collect information about the vision, origins of the project, and data we can rely on. We also search for any competition or similar pages as well as find out what are client's expectations regarding workshops.
 

Our next step is to analyze collected data, existing products, and the competition. During this phase, we are also looking for inspirational pages and solutions. With this information, we can establish the goal for workshops and choose the tools and techniques that will fit the project.

There are two types of workshops - one conducted in-house and the virtual one.

In-house workshops

In our work, we use Design Thinking methodology. Every workshop starts with the background of the project. We talk about the idea, users, context, business, and current processes. Our focus is on problems that new solution should solve.

Next step is to generate ideas on how to treat every troubling issue; then we can talk about design principles and inspirations. After that, we are ready to go through scenarios and tasks - if a client has already created mockups, we discuss them and compare with our work. Otherwise, we create sketches with clients during the coworking session.
 

Our software house works mostly with foreign customers, so without the access to target users testing ideas or prototypes is very challenging. We can offer remote tests of prototypes if the client has access to users - those can, for example, be their employees for whom we develop solutions. We also can do guerilla tests of functionalities, which can validate the idea, main functionalities, as well as check whether users understand the product. All of those tests can be provided after workshops.

The client receives all products of workshops in digitalized version (such as personas, customer journey, story mapping, etc.), which then can be used for marketing purposes or during the future development. Estimation of the cost of development is also done based on what we went through.

Online workshops

We can offer remote workshops if the client is not able to come to our office. Such workshops are divided into shorter sessions with each one lasting approximately 4 hours. To ensure the best possible communication and cooperation, we use tools for online workshops that enable us to work in a very similar way we do offline

Key benefits and advantages of workshops 

  • Designers and developers having a better understanding of the whole project

    Even if the project is well described and has the documentation, it still can be misunderstood. Clients are experts in their fields and know their product. For designers and developers, this might be a new environment, but they have knowledge on how to build it. The best way to exchange experience is to meet face to face. The aim of this part of the workshop is to for the team to have a better understanding of the project and for clients to say that, despite their knowledge, they still learned something new about their products.
  • Generating new ideas

    We use many creative techniques to come up with new ideas and choose the best ones. Before the workshops session, we study other services and collect inspirations. Sometimes we organize co-creating session with clients, and often also with developers. By providing materials for creative work and cooperating in the non-formal conditions we are able to create an atmosphere that has a positive impact when it comes to brainstorming new ideas.
  • Revision of current assumptions

    Every project that is worked on during workshops is on a different stage of design or even development. Some projects have solid foundations, such as research and a vast knowledge of user’s motivations and expectations. Some have even low or high fidelity mockups. However, what we usually receive are briefs, lists of functionalities, and sometimes documentation. During the workshops, we verify whether current assumptions truly respond to users needs, after what we can suggest some new solutions and ideas. If we are given sketches or mockups, we discuss them with the client and compare with the workshops’ results.
  • A discovery of uncertainties, risks, and weak points

    The analysis that we do can reveal functionalities that were missing, possible difficulties with implementation, and potential risks. This is a very important benefit of workshops for clients since they usually say that we pointed out some problems that they would never discover on their own.
  • Time and cost estimation based on the more reliable information

    One of the reasons we do workshops is to have a good foundation for scoping and costs estimation. The project is analyzed piece by piece with developers, while possible solutions are discussed with the client. That way both sides have a better understanding of the scope of work and its complexity.
  • The scope of work (more organized and narrowed down)

    While working together with the client, we talk about KPI (Key Performance Indicators), their priorities, and goals that need to be achieved. Together we decide which functionalities are fundamental and which are additional, what is then helpful when finding MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and MMP (Minimum Marketable Product).
  • Getting to know the team

    Workshops are the best way to get to know the team that will be responsible for design and development of the product. It's very important to have a good relationship with the team and to put trust in their skills and methodology they work with. During the session, clients spend time with Project Manager, UX Designer, Frontend Developer, and Backend Developer. They have the opportunity to ask questions, as well as see how the team works and what is their attitude toward both their work and the project. After such a meeting clients know what they can expect during the future cooperation.

Workshops help to better understand the product assumptions, their context, users, and business needs. As a result, we can design the product that will be built on solid foundations. The better analysis before development the less unexpected issues and additional cost in the development phase.

And that's it! If you are interested in validating your idea, checking your assumptions with the team, building a new product, or redesigning your current one, don't hesitate to contact us.

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