How to run a UX design workshop

Andreas Johansson
Jun 17, 2019 · 7 min read

I’ve recently had the possibility to run a set of UX design workshops. In this article I’ll share my experiences and how you can avoid some of the design workshop mistakes I have done in the past.

What is a UX design workshop and why do you need one?

A UX design workshop is a good way to kickoff a design project. Since design work is never done in complete isolation, you first need feedback from multiple disciplines and areas (e.g. business angle, user angle, technical angle). Then, as a designer, you need to balance this input to create the best experience possible, while at the same time considering limitations and tradeoffs.

Having a UX design workshop can then bring everyone on the same page, get involvement. It’s also a lot of fun to collaborate on initial design work!

When do you not need a UX design workshop?

If you are only a few people / key stakeholders project, I find it more efficient to run a set of stakeholder interviews instead of a full-on design workshop.

Another caveat is that in large groups, design workshops can easily turn into a session where people are afraid to say what they really want / need (this very much depends on the culture too so be sure to test your way through this). The workshop moderator (typically the UX lead) needs to be strong when facilitating the workshop and make sure that people are not afraid to voice their opinions.

Who should participate in a UX design workshop?

I like to have at least one representative per discipline / key area present in the design workshop. This may include e.g.

Before the workshop

During workshop

After the workshop

Some exercises that you can run during the UX design workshop

Questions & Answers
This is as simple as it sounds. Before the workshop, gather the team and brainstorm what questions you should ask to the people present in the workshop. This may be general ones, e.g. “What is the problem we are trying to solve?”, “Who are the users?”, “What is the context of use?”, but it may also be more specific inquiries about technology decisions that may impact the design (screen resolutions, browsers, where to find company relevant branding / style guides and so on).

User story mapping, or variants thereof
I find it very valuable to capture everyone’s view of the users are, what their goals are, and what tasks they need to perform (and ideally mentioned in which context of use). This can be accomplished by running some variant of a user story mapping exercise. In larger groups this may be tricky to facilitate in a good way, but I find this type of exercise can work well if you have a limited set of participants and a quite clear grip on what tasks that are performed.

Collaborative Sketching
For interaction design I find this very valuable. Basically you can do 1-up or 6-up sketching to generate a huge amount of ideas early on. This also has the added benefit that you collaborate on early designs, and that people tend to feel more involved in the early stages of the design. Each participant can then present the conceptual design ideas they had and their thoughts, and then you can do another iteration on the same type of exercise, where you build on previous conceptual designs made during the workshop. After the exercise is complete, the UX designer collects all the design ideas and uses them as input to create the initial wireframes of the user interface.

Final Words

I hope you find this article about how to run a UX design workshop useful. Just one final tip: Do not overpromise during the workshop. Consider the exercises in the workshop a first iteration that you do together with key stakeholders. As with other design work, you will need to do multiple iterations before you narrow down what the final solution will be. A UX design workshop can be one way to introduce and involve key stakeholders in the first step of the UX design process.

Feel free to leave any comments / questions that you have below, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading!

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Andreas Johansson

Written by

I am a UX designer & software developer based in Sweden. Contact me here:

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +791K followers.

Andreas Johansson

Written by

I am a UX designer & software developer based in Sweden. Contact me here:

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +791K followers.

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