I've gotta say that my "Let's Design an App" workshop this last weekend was as fun as it was productive! This workshop was a collaborative event between 3Leaf Consulting, and AIGA. Participants from a variety of different trade backgrounds showed up in order to sharpen their understanding about UX methodology. (Interestingly, not everyone was a novice. Some people were highly experience in certain aspects of UX, but wanted to learn more about other areas).
So in this workshop, I tried a slightly new approach which is what I want to talk about here. I'm calling it: "The Design Roulette Teaching Method".
A little background
The goal of this workshop was to familiarize participants with the method and the process of UX. My motivation for doing this is that I often hear new professionals say things like:
"I've read lots of books, and I understand what I read, but I don't know how to apply it."
"I've learned some techniques, but I don't know when to use them."
"I've gotten hired and I'm doing UX work, but I wish my company had a design team so I could see what experienced UX professionals do."
The demand for UX is growing so fast that people are actually getting hired before they have an adequate proficiency in the trade. UX as a trade also isn't the easiest thing to learn. It's comprised of a variety of different academic disciplines and professions. UX as we know it is relatively new when compared to other trades such as software development (but only if we don't count 'human factors', which is actually older). Essentially: people feel lost and are trying to find a rhythm for how this work is done.
I've designed enough products by this point in my career that I instinctively know what to do next (e.g. build a prototype so the dev team can see how this thing works, or do a cognitive walkthrough because I need to validate a design and don't have time for a usability test). However, this is a difficult thing to bestow upon a group of learners.
Teaching a 'method' is harder than teaching 'info'.
So for this work shop I decided my metric for success would be "by the end of the workshop, do people have an improved understanding (and a 'feel') for how the UX methodology flows from beginning to end"?
I decided that the workshop would be divided into four groups of participants, and that each group works on a different mock-product (mobile app).
Each group receives a sheet describing the product idea, the goals, the constraints, etc. Additionally, the workshop is split into 4 phases:
Research I - (early research) is the 'discovery phase' where the team produces information about the target users and tasks.
Design I - (early design) is the ideation and wireframe phase where high-level decisions are made, regarding structure and flow.
Research II - (late research) is a validation phase, where the team produces information about the current design.
Design II - (late design) is the polish phase where previous design issues are fixed, and high fidelity design decisions are made.
In real life, there are lot of methodologies and techniques that exist within each of these phases. Also in the real world, you will cycle in and out of each of these phases multiple times in a very non-linear manner. However, the idea for this workshop is to give participants a feel for the flow of the UX process from beginning to end. Also, in order to capitalize on limited time, we flow through once, linearly from start to finish.
Don't worry, the workshop participants don't need to be exposed to the complexity of this switching scheme. Simply tell each group what to do next; there's no need for them to understand the logic governing who switches to what (that's for the instructor).