Helping a Global Video Company to enhance the news through video and artificial intelligence.
Facilitation and Product Design
Facilitator and Product Designer (me), Product Designer (remote), Account Executive
Facilitation props (markers, whiteboard, sharpies, sticky notes, and dot stickers), Sketch, and InVision
The client approached the company with a few days of anticipation and rushed to have "something tangible" to show to their investors within the next month. We had a prep call to review the scope of the project, understand the level of definition of the product, and the current understanding of the users.
After the call, I planned a set of activities to be run with the information that I had, plus another set of activities as a backup in case I needed to change directions based on new findings or if the client decided to go in another direction (which is usually the case).
These were some of the exercises I prepared for the sessions:
Since I knew I would need to improvise a lot (change activities on the spot, switch the order, tweak the exercises, etc.), I put together a 100-slide deck with every exercise step by step and a first slide with links to jump quickly to every activity.
I was supposed to travel with my peer Florian Lissot and run the workshop together, but his visa wasn't approved on time, so I ended up heading to Australia by myself. I will explain later how this situation was beneficial for us in the end.
We kicked off the workshop with some introductions. To make it a bit more fun, I asked them to say these three things about themselves:
This activity allowed people to feel more relaxed and laugh a bit by listening to the answers of others (especially the answers to the last question).
Since the participants would be sketching a lot during the day, I had them go through a warm-up exercise called "The 9 Dots": a puzzle from the '70s invented by John Adair commonly used at the Walt Disney Company.
The activity is very simple: we ask participants to draw a square made of nine dots, then we ask them to connect the dots by using as few lines as possible.
Although there is no perfect solution, this exercise usually allows for many creative solutions from our participants. These are some examples:
In this case, this activity helped my stakeholders to feel comfortable using sharpies and paper before jumping into other exercises (funny story: this is how the term *thinking outside the box* was coined).
When running a workshop, making sure participants feel their time is being properly used is crucial. In this case, I wanted to get a good idea of how much understanding did they have already around the problem space first so I can discard any activities that might be unnecessary.
I asked the group which problems they wanted to solve for their market and took notes while they listed them. Most of the stakeholders had first-hand experience in this market and had done a lot of desk research. They had enough understanding for us to move to define the specific personas we wanted to focus on.
I gave five minutes to the team to write down the different profiles or user groups that would be interacting with the platform, one sticky note per profile.
Once they finished, we grouped the profiles on the whiteboard and then asked the team to select the profiles we should be focusing on for the workshop. The prompt was: if we were to launch a first version of the product next month, who would be the first people using it?
We selected two profiles and started creating proto-personas.
Proto-personas are archetypes not wholly based on research but instead made of a combination of hard data, anecdotal evidence, and strong (as in very close to reality) assumptions.
I draw four quadrants on the whiteboard:
Then I allowed the team to braindump for a couple of minutes. Once finished, I asked them to place their sticky notes on the whiteboard and group the similar or identical ideas. Next, I put a name to the proto-persona, read the pain points, needs, goals, and behaviors, and briefly discussed any ideas that the team might have missed and should include in the whiteboard.
As the last step, they voted on the pain points and goals that had more relevance, meaning those that needed to be addressed first through the product. We would revisit these proto-personas once the solution was ready to ensure we were addressing these needs.
When it was time to work on the solution, I had the team working on these activities from Sprint:
1. Crazy 8's (8 min): fold the paper in half three times until you have eight panels. Draw one idea per panel, one minute each.
2. Solution sketch (15 min): choose one or two panels to create one big idea. On one piece of paper, draw your proposal in detail and make it self-explanatory so others can understand it without asking questions.
3. Art museum (3 min): Stick the sketches on a wall and space them out in one long row, just like the paintings in a museum. Observe the details of each idea in silence.
4. Heat map (5 min): Look at the solution sketches. Put dot stickers beside the parts you like (if any). Put two or three dots on the most exciting ideas.
5. Speed critique (3 min): Gather around a solution sketch, call out standout ideas, and write them down on sticky notes. Review concerns and questions. Explain any missed concepts. Move to the next sketch and repeat.
6. Super vote (5 min): Give each participant one super vote and give three to the decider. Use the elements with more super votes as a reference for the whiteboarding.
By the end of the ideation phase, we had a good definition of the ideas we wanted to use in the final prototype.
I used this technique from AJ&Smart to create the narrative for the prototype. I asked the team to individually define the steps the user should follow from start to end while navigating the product without considering edge cases, just the happy path. One sticky note per step.
They placed their timeline on the whiteboard, and then we merged all the steps into one master timeline.
We ended up with a simple narrative but enough for us to describe the value proposition.
I have done this activity collaboratively and individually. The truth is that doing it with the whole team watching you is overkill – you already have all the steps you will draw, plus a bunch of sketches prioritized that describe the details of the UI. It is better to give the team a break while creating a first version of the flow and calling them later to get their feedback and iterate.
This is what we ended up with:
Our main stakeholder had already scheduled a few meetings with potential buyers for the next day to walk them through the product and get their feedback. I closed the session with the agreement to have a prototype ready the next morning.
I went back to my hotel to have some dinner and a shower before continuing with the pending work.
At 8:00 pm, I had a zoom call with my peer, Florian, who couldn't travel but would still support me from Mexico. We had a 90 min session where I walked him through the work done during the day and then jumped into Sketch to do some peer design.
We created the wireflows for the prototype together, and then I went to sleep. The next day, he would have a high-fidelity prototype ready for me to present to the client.
The next morning, Florian showed me the prototype. It looked great! He even created symbols of most components to quickly make changes that could be replicated in every screen when I implemented feedback from the client.
As opposed to most of the sessions I run at the end of these types of workshops, this one didn't end with a user testing study. For our client, it was more important to showcase the product to potential buyers to get their feedback and initial reactions. Although some of the feedback we receive during these walkthroughs is biased (because people tend to be nice), we still received feedback of value around what was helpful, unhelpful, and confusing.
We ran these sessions while the team was taking notes, then we had one last session to debrief and agree on potential changes to the prototype.
We closed the workshop with the agreement to send a proposal to continue refinement of the user interface, cover alternative paths and edge cases, and implement the product in the following weeks.
We delivered a successful first version of the product and received positive feedback. Our client felt confident about the direction the product was taking. This project helped us turn a 2-day workshop into a 6-month assignment with a team of ~ eight people implementing and iterating our initial design.