UX Power Up: Lean UX technique: The Design Studio

In this week’s UX Power Up, Frank discusses a Lean UX tactic for developing rapid wireframe ideas…the Design Studio. Design Studios help teams cross-pollinate, but they have a downside too…

Transcript below…

Hi Frank Spillers here, Founder of Experience Dynamics and its time for this week’s UX Power Up. In today’s UX Power Up, I’d like to talk about Design Studios. So Design Studios are not places where you go to design in a UX studio or something, they are actually just a term that’s come from Lean UX- an efficiency methodology and approach to developing better user experiences.

The Design Studio is basically a collaborative workshop. What we do in Design Studios is a collaborative workshop with stakeholders and so you might include developers, designers, you might include Directors and in smaller companies more senior management roles.

It’s kind of an all hands on, and a chance for everyone to bring their ideas in a non-judgmental space and collaborate and flesh out ideas…What happens in these workshops is they follow the format of sprint: so you do a very rapid iteration, lasting 8-10 minutes, then another 15-20 minutes…and this allows you to brainstorm and sketch out. It includes rapid prototyping and sketching and teams are just pouring over ideas or content or layout, wireframes of all sizes and shapes–and those are refined and refined and refined again.

So these are group workshops, collaborative, they are open sessions- there’s no right or wrong answers- hopefully they have been informed by some user research, we always like to bring personas –actual user research artifacts into our Design Studios so that teams can be armed with actual real tasks as opposed to riffing or blue-skying and not having something grounded to work with.

One of the down sides to design studios if you do them internally- in our example we are an outside user experience consulting firm so we work with clients as a team…but if you are doing them internally as part of your process, one of the downsides to watch out for is that you can come up with a bunch of ideas but then who owns them, and how do you take them to the next level?

One of my clients recently that we did some UX training with- we showed them how to do Design Studios and they did them themselves and they said it was all fine and good but because they didn’t have a defined UX team, they didn’t know who to listen to, they weren’t sure who owned the idea and which idea was a better idea and so this is an issue that relates to having a strong culture of UX- having defined roles, having someone who can weigh in- preferably a usability engineer or UX designer or UX architect on your team who can actually own the deliverable, who can actually leverage usability best practices– and user advocacy to say “oh this is a good direction- let’s take it, or let’s test this idea”– and so that’s one of the weaknesses that we’ve noticed with the Design Studio but they can be really effective to be collaborative tools to bring people together—they satisfy the ‘designer itch’ that everyone has (“everyone wants to be a designer”)– so that’s a good plus to help everyone get their thoughts out on paper… We use little mini-whiteboards that users can draw on that are fun tool that everyone likes…so Design Studios definitely become more and more of that rapid, Lean UX approach– also part of a Design Thinking approach if you’re using Design Thinking as a way to quickly ideate and flesh out your ideas, you can definitely use your Design Studios in your workshop sessions there too!

So I encourage you to try a Design Studio and see how it works for you, and would love for you to report back or maybe comment below if you have already experienced one- share your experience! Thanks again and Happy UXing!

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