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2. Workshop

A group of users led by a moderator participate in discussion and exercises to explore a  subject or design idea in greater detail. People can be asked questions or directed to perform tasks.

A group on a workshop


Used during the early phases to gain broader understanding of a topic and during evaluative stages to define problems or test ideas.


  • Engaging and controlling a group of people is challenging and requires a skilled moderator who is energetic, able to focus the discussion and has good knowledge of the topic being discussed
  • Good time management is crucial when dealing with groups of people working together
  • It can be difficult to capture and make sense of the information generated as workshops can be energetic events with many people talking at the same time


  • Can explore multiple points of view within the same discussion
  • Group participation can stimulate new ideas as people bounce ideas off each other
  • Explores contrasting ideas and opinions
  • Highlights differing user experience and expertise
  • Feedback on design directions will come from different perspectives
  • Can produce large amount of opinions and ideas in a short amount of time


  • Information can be less honest. People will be influenced by the group dynamics and will try to present themselves in a positive way
  • There is a danger of leading questions. People may be influenced by the moderator and try to please them by confirming their suggestions
  • People are limited to their own personal experiences. Do not expect them to come up with new design ideas but aim to capture their thoughts, feelings and feedback instead
  • Strong individuals can dominate the group and influence the other participants
  • It is easy to stray from the topic if the workshop not carefully and consistently controlled
  • Workshops can be costly and time-consuming to organise. They need to be planned well in advance


  1. Assemble a group of 6-10 people willing to participate in the workshop. Larger groups will be difficult to control while smaller ones will limit the scope. Choose a venue that is of an appropriate size and suitably private.
  2. The investigator acts as the moderator facilitating the activities and encouraging discussion. It is essential to have helpers to set up and support activities.
  3. Create a structured plan for the workshop and keep to it as much as possible. Timekeeping is critical when working with groups, and workshops can be very difficult to manage.
  4. Plan for the workshop to last from two hours up to two days depending on the activities and availability of the participants.
  5. Start with an ice-breaker that gets everyone involved. This will help to energise and engage participants and help them get to know each other. 
  6. Aim for a series of short tasks rather than one long one. Use early activities to build up to and prepare the participants.
  7. When performing tasks, break the group into teams of 2-4 participants. This makes it easier to control and encourages different opinions to be heard.
  8. Get the teams to take ownership of their ideas and get them to present to the other teams. Mild competitiveness between teams can sometimes be beneficial.
  9. Stationery such as whiteboards and post-its should be provided. ‘Post-it walls’ allow everyone to have their say and enables ranking and grouping of ideas. People should not have to bring anything with them.
  10. Breaks and refreshments should be provided, especially for longer workshops, but these need to be strictly controlled in order to maintain momentum.
  11. Collect data periodically. Photograph and collect the material that has been generated throughout the workshop, at the end.
  12. Set aside time immediately afterward to note down key points or ideas before you forget them.


  • Design provocations: props and visual provocations can be useful to inspire the group or as starting points for discussions and activities
  • Questionnaires: questionnaires given to the group before a workshop can help you to gather background information on the participants and prime them for the discussion


  • Exploring broad topics from different perspectives and brainstorming new ideas
  • Focusing attention on big issues that need detailed discussion
  • Providing feedback and challenging existing ideas and designs
  • Collecting opinions from a community rather than an individual