How to run a product design workshop

Guide on how to run a product design workshop.

There are different parties involved when creating a product – the designers, developers, marketing team, managers and other personnel in the company needed to take the product from conceptualisation to the final release and get it to the customers. Successful collaboration right from the onset is key to ensure that the product gets to solve the problem that it targets, and that it meets the business’ goals. A product design workshop brings together the different teams to synchronise their views and chart a clear path forward.

What is a product design workshop

A product design workshop essentially a grouping together of individuals involved in the production process, to coalesce their visions. One of the primary objectives of a product design workshop, is to define the core features of the product, with the different stakeholders agreeing on what will be included in the product, and also what should be prioritised. The target audience is also defined as well, with their user preferences being discussed.

The Goal of the Product Design Workshop

By the end of the workshop, the team will have the materials needed to start with the product design. This includes the list of ideas that have been agreed and voted on, sketches, prototypes or other items that are needed for the product that is to be built.

Signs That You Need A Product Design Workshop

Collaboration problems during the development of a new product can lead to critical issues with the quality of the product later. Friction with the teams involved with the development, your understanding of the behavioural signals coming from the product team – what they are saying and doing, as well as the facilitation of the process all have an impact on its success. 

Indicators you need a product design workshop

Defining the goals and deliverable's required from the workshop

The key here is specificity. You want to have clear cut goals for the workshop. These include:

  • The designers explaining the product features and development challenges to the marketers and managers
  • The managers explaining the business needs and how the product plays into the roadmap of the company
  • Marketers bringing forward user-feedback and complaints that need to be addressed by the design team
  • Defining the product requirements and creating a plan for the project

Next up is setting tangible deliverables from the workshop. These range from documentation or a draft that has product design specifications, a design concept, or a summary of the ideas that will be brought forth during the brainstorming.

Bring the team together

So, who are the stakeholders involved with the project? This will vary based on the company in question, and the product that is being developed. Basically, you want professionals whose positions are needed in addressing the challenge being faced. This includes the personnel building the product, those who engage the customers and are thus well placed to know their preferences and pain-points, business area experts, as well as the decision-makers in the company. As such, participants in the workshop can include the UX designers, marketing crew, executive sponsors, managers, and even actual customers. This is to give you different perspectives on the product, its features, consumer needs and market reception.

Who will lead the workshop

This is a critical decision, since the individual selected will be responsible for organising the participants, documenting the process of the workshop, controlling how much time the participants have when making their contributions and other aspects to ensure that the workshop goes on smoothly.

Keeping the workshop lean will help to get meaningful contributions. Generally, around 5-10 people should suffice. Every participant in the workshop should play a specific role in the company that is directly tied to the product, whether it is the designers, those who know its history, the sales team, personnel signing off the budget for the process, or the customers who will eventually use the product.

Setting the stage

This looks at the logistics of the workshop. Where will it be held, and what will be needed? Is it a physical meeting? Getting a room that is spacious enough to handle the participants will be necessary, as well as essentials like whiteboards for them to convey their points or sketch out their ideas. For cases where data will be presented, or concept diagrams created with 3D visuals, a projector or screen may be needed.

Items like notebooks, markers, a pad of papers for drawing, pens, and sticky notes will come in handy. In case the workshop is projected to last for hours, then make arrangements for drinks and snacks to be availed for the participants.

For the online meetings, the platform selected should have the capacity of handling the number of participants attending the meeting, with a “share-screen” feature for presentations that are to be made.

Prepare the agenda

You do not want things running off course. Divide the workshop up into several sections, each with their specific questions, activities, and time-frames. Allocate the different roles to the participants and ensure that you have created a document that defines this, then send it to the participants. That way, they will know what is required of them, and allow them to prepare for the workshop.

Workshop day

With a printout of the agenda, the participants knowing what is expected of them from the workshop, and location ready, things should run smoothly. The workshop gives your team the opportunity to brainstorm on different aspects of the product. Here are some issues that you may look at during the process:

Explore the user persona

This is the target consumer of the product that is to be developed. What are their expectations? What frustrations do they face when they use the current or alternate versions of the product? What will make them pick you over the competition? Dissect their demographics, defining the goals and challenges of the consumer.

Look into user experiences

How do customers find the product? For instance, if it is an app you are dealing with, how are the log-in and search actions on it? For the ecommerce platforms, aspects like the buying and checking out processes are integral to the user experience. The customer journey also comes in here. The goal is to look at things from the customer’s point of view, paying attention to their thoughts and feelings along the different parts of the process. e.g., when making an online order for a clothing item off your website, you want to look at the purchase process, the order confirmation via SMS, payment modes used, all through to the delivery.

Brainstorming on improvements

Now you want to focus on the improvements that can be made to enhance user experience and bring you closer to meeting the product goals. You can take a two-pronged approach, having the participants highlight a challenge faced, and the opportunity arising from it.

Having breaks will help with the ideation. For instance, you can break off after an hour, allowing the participants to take some drinks or snacks, before getting back on the horse.

Workshop Etiquette

  1. Managing devices – The simple action of placing phones in silent mode will reduce disturbances during the workshop. Laptops can also be left out of the room – unless they are required for making presentations.
  2. Active listening – Encourage the participants to listen actively, including allowing points that they disagree with to be raised nonetheless
  3. Keep the points short – No one should hog the limelight. Keeping the points being raised by each individual brief will provide others ample time to voice their ideas.
  4. Keep it light – A fun workshop is more effective. Avoid shooting down ideas or allowing arguments to manifest. Everyone’s opinion is welcome, and a participant should not force theirs onto another.
  5. Time – Be strict on time. Sure, workshops rarely start right on the hour – but a 10-minute window should suffice. Participants arriving in the middle of the workshop will find it difficult to catch up, especially after missing out on the background information.

Putting it all together

Everything that has been sketched or written down and agreed upon should be digitised, and the product design plan finalised. Put together the whole product picture and analyse it with the group. Next, define the requirements of the different participants and teams that will be involved in the product development process, and address issues that will crop up in their fields of responsibility.

How Your Business Stands To Benefit From Running A Product Design Workshop

For starters, all the stakeholders get to understand the personas of the target audience and their needs, and the issues that the product is being created to address. By working together, they get to have a common direction and vision of the product. The ideas brought forth during the collaboration also result in maximising the value of the resultant product, with optimal features for the consumer.