The Workshop

by ts8richardson

We had a workshop yesterday with the team. The workshop had been planned for a couple of weeks and it was intended to be a way of bringing all the user research together and formulate a strong plan of action for the site.

The goals were as following:

  • Share our findings of our user and market research
  • Analyse data, identify patterns and start to draw conclusions
  • Find insights from our research that are interesting, surprising and pertinent
  • Understand the needs and concerns of our users and what gaps can be filled
  • Generate ideas to meet the needs of our users
  • Start to narrow down exactly what we want our product to be, what features it will have and how we can do this well
  • Start to narrow down technical, functional and design goals and approaches

We used a range of techniques for analysing and synthesising research data, generating ideas and narrowing down solutions. The three broad areas for work were:

  • Knowing our users and market
  • Generating Solutions
  • Narrowing Solutions

The aim was to have an Elevator Pitch by the end of the day.

10:00-10:15: Establish goals and rules

Starting the day by establishing goals and rules was important. Anderson, 2011 suggests clearly stating the objectives of the day helps everyone understand the context of the creative activities that will follow. Framing of the problem to be solved is important if participants are to stay on track, it’s important to draw some hard boundaries within which everyone is encouraged to play. The rules were collaboratively developed and included rules about keeping on track and on time, listening to others and creating a positive working environment.


Knowing our Users and Market

11:00-11:30 Affinity Diagram

All team members had completed various forms of user research and done some version of synthesis of their results. We each took post it notes and wrote down key insights from the research we had brought with us. It was important the insights came directly from the research. Team members wrote down lots of insights, from varied angles. Then the team presented their post-its to the team. As team members presented, we started to group the post it notes according to emerging themes. The benefit of this was being able to quickly get across all the research done by other team members and easily see emerging themes. It was both visual and auditory so the team could process the information as they heard it, then come back to it as it was organised on the board.

The method for constructing the Affinity diagram was adapted from Mindtools and the benefit was also exactly as described:

Affinity diagrams are great tools for assimilating and understanding large amounts of information. When you work through the process of creating relationships and working backward from detailed information to broad themes, you get an insight you would not otherwise find. The next time you are confronting a large amount of information or number of ideas and you feel overwhelmed at first glance, use the affinity diagram approach to discover all the hidden linkages. When you cannot see the forest for the trees, an affinity diagram may be exactly what you need to get back in focus.

Affinity Diagrams – Problem-Solving Training [WWW Document], n.d. Mind Tools. URL (accessed 4.3.13).
Empathy mapping
The empathy map was about synthesising our research and the work we had done for the Affinity diagram to focus on our users- what they say and do, what they think, what they hear and see and their ‘pains’ and ‘gains’. This was a great activity to get us acquainted with our users and start drawing connections with the research and the humans behind it. The Empathy Map strategy was suggested by Jax, but also had been seen in the Standford Design School materials.
Plattner, H., 2010. Bootcamp Bootleg [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 3.3.13).


Journey Map

The Journey Map was about helping the team to understand the process of doing an assignment for university- to empathise with the users and to identify takeaways or opportunities that we could harness in our design to create a useful and well-targeted product. The takeaways that were generated as we isolated each step in the process were really valuable for moving forward.

Flom, J., 2011. The Value of Customer Journey Maps: A UX Designer’s Personal Journey [WWW Document]. UX Matters. URL (accessed 3.4.13).


While this wasn’t initially on the schedule, we decided to bring the development of the Personas into this workshop as we felt it would be valuable to do this as a team. Some great discussion was generated around  ‘who’ our audience was and it also identified a few gaps in our research that we felt a survey might be able to be used as a good follow-up research technique.


Design Principles

Even though our time keeper was great, we didn’t get to the design principles as we were running out of time and felt we needed to move onto concrete solutions so the team could keep working after the workshop. This was ‘parked’.


McDonalds and bonding! We were going to go out but the team chose to work through lunch as we were ‘on a roll’. It felt good the team weren’t bored and were finding the techniques valuable.

Elevator Pitch

We jointly developed the elevator pitch to narrow down our focus and be very specific about the product we were building. This made it much easier to come up with useful and targeted solutions later in the afternoon. We found the semantics of this task difficult!


Brainstorming and Brain Building

Brainstorming was about generating as many ideas as possible and putting them down on paper. Many team members had come up with ideas in the morning sessions and wrote them down on post-its as they came up. We spent about 10-15 minutes silently writing down our ideas, then we started talking about them and organising them. Once the ideas stopped flowing freely, we tried ‘Brain Building’- taking one team member’s idea and building on it by adding  a feature, improving it in some way or providing some clarity about how it might work


Problem Redefinition/ POV Madlib

This technique was adapted from Polczynski’s course materials on Strategic Technology Management and Stanford Design Schools POV Madlib technique. The idea is basically to redefine the problem by creating a problem statement and substituting phrases and words that narrow down the problem or make it more specific. This helps to think about the problem from a different angle and come up with solutions that are for those particular circumstances. It was a great method for refining ideas.

Polczynski, M., 2009. Strategic Technology Management – Reference Materials [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 3.24.13).

Concluding the Day

By the end of the day, we had an elevator pitch, quite a few questions answered and the scope narrowed somewhat. It was a good outcome! Everyone was tired, but after a difficult week for the team, it was a really positive end and made it easy to move forward to the next step.