“Design is now too important to be left to designers.”
— Tim Brown
We often think of User Experience as something created by the UX/UI designers, but that is not completely true. UX is created by close collaboration between stakeholders and the UX designers. Design is a collaborative activity and UX/UI designers need to work together with operations, marketing, as well as engineering departments to realize the design of a product they are envisioning.
Coordinating among all of these separate disciplines can be hard because each of these has different goals and priorities. A designer argues that it must be usable, a business stakeholder contends that it should be viable, and a technology analyst is concerned with the feasibility of the product. This is where the designers can pursue collaborative design to overcome differences across teams.
Collaborative design, also known as participatory design, is a design strategy that helps foster effective collaboration among different stakeholders.
Benefits of Collaborative Design
Collaboration is the most challenging part of the design process. But the payoffs are innumerable for those who are willing to take on the challenge. Here are a few benefits of collaborative design:
Brings the Team Together with a Shared Mission
Collaborative design brings team members together, focuses them on a shared goal instead of wasting time in disagreement. This collaborative culture motivates the team, and further increases the probability of a fruitful outcome.
Often, teams work in silos and are unable to innovate because their ideas are trapped in “echo chambers”. Collaborative Design prevents this issue by involving all team members from the very beginning in a workshop-based approach. This unlocks the creative potential across the team and gives an impetus to innovation.
Fosters Shared Ownership
As different stakeholders are involved in the collaborative design process, everyone feels invested and has a stake in the outcome. This creates a sense of shared ownership in the success of the project.
Collaborative Design Activities
What kind of activities can fit within the framework of collaborative design? – Activities that combine individual and group exercises and involve a group of people with different profiles. Some examples of these activities are Crazy Eights, Affinity Mapping, and Whiteboard Sketching, etc.
These activities foster the process of ideation, collaboration, and involvement without requiring a lot of time, effort, materials, or software knowledge.
A whiteboard session is a type of informal session in which multiple team members contribute to one design on a whiteboard. It works rather well for smaller groups or cross-functional teams that are aiming at comparing design ideas.
Whiteboard sessions commence with clear goals at hand. From there, the team can begin sketching an idea. All the team members are then allowed to get involved in building upon that very idea. They can do so much as to propose alternatives and even discuss the potential challenges.
The Crazy Eights
The technique called the “Crazy Eights” is a sketching activity comprising three rounds. It helps individuals generate ideas. Here is the step-by-step process:
Crazy Eights is a sketching activity that enables individual participants to create ideas as they brainstorm.
Round 1: 5 minutes; 8 ideas
Each participant needs to fold a sheet of paper thrice into equal halves, thus creating 8 rectangles Then, they unfold the paper. Now, each individual needs to take no more than 5 minutes to sketch 8 ideas into each rectangle.
Round 2: 5 minutes; 1 big idea Now,
Each participant works on their own for sketching one big idea on a separate piece of paper. This is done in, again, no more than 5 minutes. The plan is to either build on one of the 8 ideas or combine various elements from any of those 8 ideas created in Round one.
Round 3: 5 minutes; 1 storyboard/wire flow
Now that each participant has built a sketch on one big idea from Round 2, they must build a storyboard on a new piece of paper, explaining the key steps that a user must take in relation to that idea.
The activity called affinity diagramming is a UX activity usually involving two steps:
Using sticky notes: During this step, the members of the team write down facts or ideas on several distinct sticky notes.
- There is a usability session wherein the facilitator, as well as the observers, document on a separate sticky note, any sort of — each on one sticky note.
- Then, there’s the ideation workshop, wherein the facilitator or the attendees documented each idea on a separate sticky note.
Organizing the notes in groups: Once the ideation session has been carried out, the team joins in a workshop for analyzing the notes by:
- Sorting the notes into distinct categories
- Setting priority to each note, and ascertaining the subsequent steps in design or for further research if needed
The design sprint is a tested methodology aimed at resolving problems by way of designing, prototyping, and then testing out those ideas with real users.
Design sprints have the power to swiftly align various teams to a shared vision and clearly underlined objectives & deliverables, thus rendering itself as one of the best ways of collaborative design.
It is one of the pivotal collaborative design tools that help you develop a hypothesis, create a prototype of an idea, and test it out quickly with minimum possible investment in the most realistic possible environment.
This method proposes five consecutive days of work, during which the problem is discussed and a solution is tested, with key representatives of the target audience of the product or service.
When to Use Collaborative Design?
Here are some of the use cases where collaborative design can be usefully applied.
- Defining the vision of a product or service
- Gaining context on a distinct problem
- Generating and discussing ideas in an effective yet fun way
- Solving a specific design problem
- Designing the life cycle of a product or service
Product design cannot exist in a vacuum. That is why it needs the involvement of every team that has anything to do with the product directly. And that is what collaborative design facilitates.