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.
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
- 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.
- The investigator acts as the moderator facilitating the activities and encouraging discussion. It is essential to have helpers to set up and support activities.
- 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.
- Plan for the workshop to last from two hours up to two days depending on the activities and availability of the participants.
- 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.
- Aim for a series of short tasks rather than one long one. Use early activities to build up to and prepare the participants.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Breaks and refreshments should be provided, especially for longer workshops, but these need to be strictly controlled in order to maintain momentum.
- Collect data periodically. Photograph and collect the material that has been generated throughout the workshop, at the end.
- Set aside time immediately afterward to note down key points or ideas before you forget them.
GOES WELL WITH
- 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
BEST SUITED TO
- 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