A couple of weeks ago I read about the design consequences exercise and thought it would be interesting to try it out. Since we're at the start of the development of a smallish site this was a good opportunity to see what we could learn from that exercise.
How I Prepared
- a clearly articulated design problem and design goal
- We were going to design the home page of our new website
- some design ideas or components
- I prepared some possible ideas and components. At the beginning of the exercise I suggested a couple of components and wrote them on a white board. After my suggestions I asked some more to the group until the board was nicely filled up.
- a multi-disciplinary team
- I got some people from marketing and some people from sales. The group consisted out of 6 people, myself included.
- lots of paper and markers and post-its
- There was plenty of that available.
- some examples of the type of output you're expecting
- I made a couple crude of wireframes to show to the group. I'm not a designer myself so it was clear that what I was expecting was not too difficult.
- a bundle of energy
- I slept pretty well the night before. Energy-a-plenty!
What I Learned
The problem/goal really has to be specific. I didn't mention if we were designing the home page for a logged in or logged out user which led to people putting components on the home page for logged in and other for logged out users. This can be interesting to see as well but now in stead of having 6 ideas for a home page for new users if have 3 for logged in users and 3 for logged out users.
I'm not sure when this exercise gives the most benefit. We already had defined the scope for the first iteration of the site and during the exercise a lot of ideas/components were used that weren't going to make it in the first version. So maybe you should do this exercise before finalizing the scope of the first iteration.
We were only 6 people doing the home page for a simple website and it took about 1h30 to do which I think is a little bit too long. The search for components took a while as well as the explaining of each of the final designs. I'm not sure how to remedy this or if 1h30 is about right for this exercise. The disambiguity site suggests using 8 people but that would take even longer.
The participants were not very eager to use the post-its. Everyone drew a wireframe on their paper. This might be because I showed a wireframe as an example. If I do it again I'll make sure to use post-its in the examples.
After the session we were sort of in agreement of what should be on the home page since every home page had somewhat the same components but we didn't design a "final" homepage together. That's something to try next time. Also I'm not sure how this exercise can help to define what the next phase of the design process is. Everybody chose something different as second page and I had a couple of registration forms as second page which were not very helpful.
The result is that I have 6 homepages and 6 other pages from the website with a couple of obvious similarities but other than that I'm not sure how much it will help further down the road.
Anyway, it was interesting to try and I'll be sure to do it at least once or twice again with other new projects and a bit earlier in the process to be able to use the ideas people give. Also it might be that this project was a bit too small to have this exercise define what the important components and tasks in the website are.