Introducing: "The Design Roulette Teaching Method for UX" (Part 1)

Design Roulette participants.JPG

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"?


The Structure

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).

Product A

Product B

Product C

Product D

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.


The Roulette

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).

Design Roulette Teaching Method (switching scheme).JPG

The circled numbers here represent the groups of participants.  The products are represented by letters inside rectangles.  At the end of each phase each group hands off their product, and all the deliverables they've created to the next group.

In the workshop this last Saturday, we only got through the first two phases: Research I and Design I.  (Therefore myself and AIGA are working on scheduling the follow up workshop, which will be announced as soon as we can figure out a date).

After the second part of this workshop, I will post more details on this teaching methodology along with the wonderful work produced by the participants!

(P.S. If you are aware of a teaching method that is identical or very similar to this, please contact me and let me know so I can properly cite those ideas.)

Stay tuned!


My Summer 2017 Schedule for Workshops and Talks

This summer I'll be offering a handful of workshops and talks.  They span a broad array of subject areas, yet they all converge on the topic of design psychology.  I'm deeply interested in and passionate about all of these topics, and I hope that you will join me!


Visual Insight: Become a Data Sense Maker (A 3Leaf and AIGA collaborative workshop)

When: Saturday, July 22nd, 9:00am - 3:00pm

Where: Iron Yard (4203 Montrose Blvd #100, Houston TX)

Sign up on the AIGA page


Unconscious Design: Constructing Interfaces for the Untapped Psyche

When: Thursday, August 10th, 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Where: PROS Pricing (3100 Main St., Houston TX)

RSVP on the Meetup page


Let’s Design an App! An Introduction to the UX Process (A 3Leaf and AIGA collaborative workshop)

When: Saturday, September 9th, 9:00am - 3:00pm

Where: Iron Yard (4203 Montrose Blvd #100, Houston TX)

Sign up link will be available at a later date

For Early UX Travelers (My Recommended Reading List)

'Don't Make Me Think' by Steve Krug 

- This is probably the most straight-forward and basic books in the field.  It will give you a foundational understanding of how to approach UX design. 


'About Face' by Alan Cooper 

- This one is my favorite.  It is so unbelievably comprehensive and complete.  It's very useful and after reading this you will be very informed.  Alan Cooper is also one of the most important people in the field. 


'The Inmates are Running the Asylum' by Alan Cooper 

- Same author as above, this is a heavily cited book.  This is actually the book where Cooper introduced the whole idea of 'personas' to the usability field.  This book is basically for business people and technologists who don't understand the place of usability and why it's very important. 


'The Design of Everyday Things' by Donald Norman 

- This is one of those books that you are required to read in virtually any graduate program in usability or human factors (things may have changed now, but that certainly used to be the case and probably still is).  This book isn't useful in a direct sense, but will give you a high level idea about how to approach design.  I'm mostly putting it on the list for its historical importance. 


'Designing with the Mind in Mind' by Jeff Johnson 

- This book should be required reading for all UX practitioners in my opinion.  Basically, the author takes the most relevant psychological principles and gives very specific real-world examples of how to apply them. 


Designing Mobile Interfaces

- I actually attended Steve Hoober's lecture at the 2014 UXPA annual conference.  His talk was so incredible I looked him up and bought this book.  It is hands-down the best book on mobile design I've ever come across, and I've read a lot of them.  This book is a must have for anyone planning to do mobile design because the authors define patterns on a high enough level to not go obsolete easily.  Very good book.


'Handbook of Usability Testing' by Jeffrey Rubin, Dana Chisnell and Jared Spool

- This book is a very straight-forward reference guide on usability testing.  With your strong foundation in research, you'll easily understand everything in this book.  So this will be very useful as a reference for the specific types of usability tests and research.