The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Steve Baty—Principal of Meld Studios; President of IxDA; UXmatters columnist
- Steven Hoober—Mobile Interaction Designer and Owner at 4ourth Mobile; coauthor of Designing Mobile Interfaces; UXmatters columnist
- Adrian Howard—Generalizing Specialist in Agile/UX
- Whitney Quesenbery—Principal Consultant at Whitney Interactive Design; Past-President, Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA); Fellow, Society for Technical Communications (STC); UXmatters columnist
This time in Ask UXmatters, our experts answer two closely related questions.
Q: In your experience, when is it a good idea to do collaborative design workshops with clients? And when is it preferable to design by yourself, then present or do a walkthrough of your design solution with clients?—from a UXmatters reader
Q: Why is it important to involve both stakeholders and customers in improving product designs?—from a UXmatters reader
“Perhaps the simplest answer to the question of why it’s important to involve customers and stakeholders in the design process is that, without them, you are designing without understanding the whole picture,” replies Whitney Quesenbery. “Even if you know the context well, there’s always more to learn—and there are always ways to make a design even more delightful. Design starts with storytelling, and creating a story starts with listening.
“Whitney Hess said it clearly—if a bit provocatively—in ‘You’re Not a User Experience Designer If….’ Her list of warning signs is all about making sure that you know the audience for a design and what their goals are, that you talk with users, and above all, that you not work in a vacuum when defining the problem that your design will solve.
“So, if the question is whether you can just sit down and design from what’s in your own head, the answer is: ‘No, you can’t.’ That's the bad old way of working, where the final product represents only one perspective. We know better now. We know that we need to make sure that our process includes a way to hear all perspectives, to understand context, and to work both with and for the real people who must use what we create.
“Now, working with users and other stakeholders in a collaborative way does’t mean handing over the crayon, then building whatever they draw. The purpose of participatory design and design studio techniques is to draw out information, understand different—even competing—points of view, and get input and feedback from users. It means creating a meeting place where everyone can work together.
“I work with some clients for whom design workshop means that we all get messy sketching out ideas. In other situations, where people are less familiar with the process, we walk through scenarios to get the exercise started, using design materials that the UX team has created. The goal isn’t to make everyone into a designer, who uses the same kind of approach to solve design problems. It’s to open up the design process and let everyone in on the discussion. To give everyone a place at the table.
“Have a look at my presentation ‘Giving Users a Place at the (Design) Table: Techniques for Participatory Design.’ “I created it for a client whose team was interested in learning how to make their design process more open and participatory. It provides a survey and history of the techniques in use today.”