Collaborative Design Workshops

Turning user research insights into designs.

Ryan Brooks
Ryan B. Designs


We know that design informed by research is far superior to design in a vacuum. We also know that it’s generally a good idea to do a discovery/research phase before design. But when it comes taking the learnings and transferring them to designs, sometimes we lose some our rich findings in the process.

On a recent project, in order to help make sure that our team’s designs reflected our findings and research, I facilitated a Collaborative Design Workshop meeting.


For the project, we focused on designing an application that could help users collect and curate wish list items as well as help gift shoppers determine what to purchase for friends and family.

In our discovery phase, I first did a competitive analysis to understand the other types of products that are available on the market. I did a product feature audit, and also took a pulse of current users of those applications by reading their reviews. In addition, I went through the top competitive apps and did a cognitive walkthrough. Our team then put together an interview protocol and set out to speak with potential users about how they go about shopping for gifts and conveying to friends and family the things that they want or need. We also conducted a survey to better understand the demographics of our user groups and segment their ideologies.

We used the findings from all of this research to develop User Personas based on our user segments, and developed User Scenarios based on the wants and needs of each persona. The scenarios were designed to highlight the problem space and discuss — at a very high level — how a technological solution would help them with their problem.

One of our user scenarios (made using Xtensio)

Collaborative Workshop Meeting:

Once we had our personas, scenarios and a list of potential product features based on our insights, I set up the Collaborative Design Workshop Meeting. This particular meeting was about 2 hours long. In cases where there are a large amount of personas or features the meeting could be longer, or potentially be broken up into stages in the design phase.

The goals of the meeting were to:

  • Prioritize the product features
  • Develop sketches of potential design implementations
  • Ideate on potential user workflows

We started the meeting with posting the User Personas, User Scenarios and Product Feature Matrix up. Then a team member read one of the User Scenarios aloud to us. After listening to the scenario we discussed the user’s interaction with the app and narrowed down the product features that the user may have used or found useful in his/her scenario. These product features were turned into User Stories. For example: “As a Greta Giftgiver, I want to be able to make individualized gift lists for my children.”

Once we felt like we covered all of the user stories that played into the user’s scenario, we broke off and spent 15 minutes independently sketching what that interaction looks like on the interface. We then came back and presented and discussed our designs.

In our discussions, each team member noticed something in someone else’s design that they did not account for. The different designs sparked conversations for other features that might need to be included or workflows that made more sense.

Some of the designs and user stories from the workshop


This process was repeated for each user scenario, and coming out of the meeting, each team member walked away with a more refined idea of how the application could work and be designed. There are no expectations that the final product will look exactly like one of the sketches, but following the meeting the designer has a library of design components to draw from that are based on the findings from the research.



Ryan Brooks
Ryan B. Designs

Digital professional, information technologist and student learning of the vast world of IoT and UX. Hoping to share my findings.