From Sketchboards to Blueprints – facilitating detailed conversations about the evolving design

OK…. Not everything can be done in Collaborative Workshops. There is a time and place for an Experience Designer to get down and dirty in the detail, roll up their sleeves and just design the thing.

I have talked a lot about facilitating design workshops at the beginning of a project, but not much about what happens after that. This is what i do…

I think the “design development” phase is about two things.

  1. Prototyping and Testing…. its the way you take the vague direction established in workshops and turn it into something that real people understand and want, and something that you could actually build. We are trying week long design “sprints” and doing 1 days user testing each week…. and i have to say it works a treat. Sure the pace is intense, but the more you do to reduce the feedback cycle time the quicker you can tune and improve the design.The project i just finished working on was in the “design development” phase – we spent 5 weeks improving on the inception sketch designs, and in the process tested with 20 users. The difference between the first and last prototypes was amazing – almost a completely different model for pitching the value of the service to consumers and extracting value for the business when users engaged with the service. Do, test, learn, respond….Do, test, learn, respond…
  2. Design Sketchboards… I take the prototype designs and turn them into a single, visual design asset that helps facilitate detailed conversations about the UI designs and page flows. You could argue thats what the prototype is for, but in my experience prototypes are often to complex and have to many alternative navigation paths to be very effective as an asset for sharing design vision. Design blueprints simplify the design into navigation flows and page templates, and help everyone understand the design solution proposed.

Now dont get all “thats BUFD” on me… the entire point is to facilitate detailed conversations about the evolving design. Its not fixed in time, it evolves and I usually paste version after version over the top of the original (its kinda fun flicking back through time and saying “thats where we started”)

I think its important to use this asset to drive understanding during the delivery, and the best way to do this is “take 1/2 the wall”. I think embodying a “balanced approach” to design and development on the wall is important. Walls and cards are good for managing projects, but they ain’t all that good at UX vision.

take a look at http://www.cooper.com/journal/2011/02/lean_ux_product_stewardship_an.html and http://uxweek.com/2010/transcripts/transcript-2010-adam-mosseri for more on what i mean when i say a “balanced approach”. I will try and write more about this soon.

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About Jason Furnell

design thinker . experience designer . lo-fi sketcher . workshop facilitator . visual thinker . diagrammer . agile believer . multidisciplinary collaborator . build sequencer . incrementing and iterating . architecting information . presenting and pitching . master of design (its a degree, not a self assigned title) . dyslexic . misspell-er of many many many things....
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8 Responses to From Sketchboards to Blueprints – facilitating detailed conversations about the evolving design

  1. Phil Barnes says:

    The wall is a very misunderstood tool of our trade, I have used it many times when communicating to business and end-users to provide that often missed overall picture. In my experience I have found seeing the system in pictures, with post-its and pencil notes all over the screens, really helps to break down the IT barrier that people tend to be wary of.

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