As designers, we try to balance user needs with business needs. Creating personas that represent our users is one way we can focus on users and understand the impacts of our design decisions on the business.
The benefits of creating personas include:
- documenting shared knowledge about the people for whom you’re developing a product
- informing design based on user needs and wants
- reducing debates within product teams, because the persona’s needs and goals direct design, not the opinions of members of the design team
- keeping the product team focused on the target personas
Understanding Stakeholders’ Needs and Goals
In addition to users, there are other stakeholders whose needs and goals you should consider—both when defining a product and preparing for a design walkthrough.
Firstly, you need to understand that every stakeholder has different needs and goals. You must also understand how their needs and goals can impact and influence the direction of your product design and the way you plan to present it.
“Have conversations with peers and team leads that you collaborate with about their struggles toward their product creation process.”—Liya Zheng
Here are some people who might be present at your design walkthrough and some questions and goals they might have:
- business representatives—Does the product design meet the business objectives and will it create opportunities for the business? How will this design either make or save money for the business? These people want to see whether the design meets the needs of the product domain and whether users in the field will understand it.
- project manager—Can the development team implement this design in time and when will the project milestones occur?
- technical expert—Can the product team implement the product as designed? Is your design technically feasible? How much time will it take to build?
- usability specialist—A person in this role wants to see whether the design takes user goals into account and whether it will create positive opportunities or problems.
- users—They want to see whether the product will actually help them do their jobs better:
- Will I sell more?
- Will the product enhance my current process?
- Will it make me look better to my peers or management?
We can’t always accommodate all of these needs, but it does help to document and appreciate the stakeholders’ different needs before doing a design walkthrough.
Preparing for Your Presentation to Stakeholders
What do you need to do to prepare for your walkthrough?
Planning Your Design Walkthrough
Before doing a design walkthrough, it’s important to plan the session carefully and determine exactly what you want its outcome to be and what you would like to learn. Problems arise during design walkthroughs when there is no facilitator, so either assume that role yourself or assign it to someone else. Walkthroughs can quickly turn into free-for-alls if you do not frame the review session properly. For example, a review might focus only on the product’s visual design rather than on the interactive elements or reasoning behind the design.
Here are some tips for effectively planning your design walkthrough:
- Set an agenda. This seems obvious, but I have attended many design walkthroughs where no agenda was set, the session had no focus, and participants were not sure what they were meant to do during the walkthrough or what their role was.
- Define the walkthrough’s scope. What will the session cover? During the walkthrough, you may uncover issues that it would be best to discuss at some future review session. Ideally, for a walkthrough, you are trying to get all the people in the room who can answer questions right there and then, so resolving issues won’t hold up design too much. However, you might need to assign some action items to people who can follow up on issues—for example, some stakeholders might need to check with other team members.
- Define the walkthrough’s objectives. What do you want to achieve during the walkthrough? What are the action items?
- Invite the right participants. It’s important to have the right people in the room—people who represent different perspectives and strengths—and the right number of participants. Keep your walkthrough to between four and six people. I have run walkthroughs with a room full of about 20 people, and it did not work well, because it was too hard to manage, and there were too many competing needs.
- Create an appropriate environment. Do not hold your walkthrough in a room with access to email and telephones, and all participants should turn off their mobile phones before the session starts. Otherwise, people are constantly distracted.
- Schedule the session for the right time of day. Walkthroughs are best held when people are not under time pressures, so don’t schedule them too close to other meetings.
- Determine the session’s duration. Do a speed run with a colleague to determine how long it will take to cover the design elements you want to walk through and see what questions or issues arise as a result.
- Define participants’ roles. Make sure everyone in the room has a specific role—for example, facilitator, scribe, time keeper, issue logger, and so on.
- Define the session’s ground rules. Setting ground rules places everyone on an equal footing before the walkthrough starts. This is where facilitation becomes important, so you can focus the group on the design elements that will move the session forward. Examples of good ground rules include the following:
- Listen to others.
- Share your ideas.
- Consider all ideas as equally valuable.
- Consider other’s opinions.
- Define your design goals. Ask people to come to the session with issues that you can translate into design goals or opportunities—for example, ways that you can improve the next version of the design.
- Create reusable tools. For example, prepare an agenda; list business objectives and design goals and issues; and document user research, usability test results, best practices, analyses of competitors’ designs, and users’ key tasks.
- Define your outcomes. What do you want to walk away with after the session? What will help you move the design to the next version?
- Define your next steps. This can be hard to do, as you don’t always know the direction a walkthrough will take. However, you can prepare some next steps that you think might help move the design forward. Think about what people need find out?