About client workshops and why they are a great way to kick off a design project

Client workshops bring together people who represent different teams involved in a particular project.

They usually take the form of an in-house meeting in a room that allows for a collaborative working environment (big central table, whiteboards, walls to stick stuff on). Alternatively, they can be conducted online, however, it is advised to arrange face-to-face sessions when possible.

Although workshops differ in objectives, their common focus is to generate a tangible, solid outcome. It might include, for example, a project scope or a product roadmap. It is important to remember that such client sessions are not designed by a committee.

Finding out when there might be the need for a design workshop

Often, during the initial stages of product planning, clients feel overwhelmed by the infinite amount of ideas coming to their minds when thinking about how the product might work and look. They feel like they have an understanding of a general product concept or vision, however not entirely sure which direction it should take, who it should cater for etc.

Do you feel as though you’ve found yourself in this position? It may be a sign that a design workshop should be the next step for your project.

Value design workshops may add to your product’s strategy

When arranging a workshop, it is recommended that you allocate a whole working day for it. Although it might seem like a lot of time, it is worth remembering that those sessions are not like a typical meeting which focuses on a single problem and involves one stakeholder only. Client-designer workshops are more comprehensive and, if conducted mindfully, the following goals can be achieved:

  1. Summarise and verify data collected so far.
    Designers will gather first-hand knowledge about the field and challenge their assumptions — often, clients happen to be experts in the discipline. Also, both sides might have gathered some data about the market and the users up to this point.
  2. Establish long-term goals and clarify the vision for the product.
    Bringing the whole team together supports a common understanding of the project’s objectives and the building of a shared vision. It also encourages discussions which could not occur if only two parties were involved.
  3. Get the client involved in the design process. 
    At the end of the day, the client and their business are what the design caters for. User-centered design is only a tool to achieve this. Design workshops are also a great opportunity to educate a client about the design process and to make them aware of how their contribution will matter.
  4. Save time.
    As opposed to conducting separate interviews with everyone on the client’s side individually, group workshops gather those involved together and, therefore, reduce the amount of time required to collect everyone’s insights. Furthermore, workshops minimise the communication burden of updating one another about what had been decided and allow for working out compromises together when conflicting perspectives emerge.
  5. Get a better understanding of client’s expectations.
    It is important for designers to know what is expected from their work. Workshops with a client offer a chance to create a definition of success for a particular project and establish which criteria it will be evaluated by.
  6. Develop a product scope and plan its delivery.
    Generating a detailed vision of the product and its features can be followed by processes of prioritisation and delivery scheduling.

Who should attend workshops?

Everyone who is going to be involved in a project should attend — both on 
the production and client (or content) side. However, it is important to keep the number of attendees relatively low (up to around 6), so that everyone can actively participate. It will be beneficial to invite people from different departments, such as marketing or business, in order to support the inclusivity of opinions and ideas.

When selecting participants, it is advisory to invite those who can speak on behalf of end customers or users — those might include customer service support or other people involved in the project who collect customer feedback.

Outcomes

As the result of a successful workshop you might end up with some tangible outcomes. Final effects will depend on the goals you set out for the session beforehand. Below are examples of items that might be a product of a client session:

  1. List of clear business and project goals
  2. Personas
  3. Prioritised list of user needs
  4. Information Architecture
  5. User flows
  6. MVP plan
  7. Project scope
  8. Product roadmap

The high quality of the items above is guaranteed by a collaborative environment where designers’ expertise is combined with client’s involvement and by joint, conscious decision-making done at the right time.

Summary

Although the idea of an all-day design workshop might seem time-consuming and demanding, the benefits of employing such a collaborative environment between the client and production sides are invaluable. Not only can they contribute to more effective collaboration but these sessions might also have a deciding impact on the overall success of the product.

Creating a product? Think that a design workshop could help your project? 
Do not hesitate to contact us!