Learn how to prepare and run successful ideation sessions that generate top results with these eight UX ideation techniques
Quick question: how effective would you say your ideation process is at generating useful and meaningful design ideas? Interesting.
So many good teams design average products. More often than not it’s because they’re missing a great idea. Ideation is the process of bringing ideas to life and determining the best solution to a problem.
But despite the importance of ideation, it’s not always easy to implement a winning UX ideation technique in the design process. Lack of time, managerial support, knowledge of the user, as well as issues with group dynamics are some of the most common challenges related to ideation that design teams complain about.
That stops now. Here are eight easy-to-implement UX ideation techniques that will help you put boost your ideation process in no time. Take a look – number three is our favorite!
8 UX ideation techniques you’ll love
UX ideation technique #1: Provocation
Provocation involves thinking up radical and unrealistic ideas to force the mind to think outside of the box and explore potential design solutions. With this UX ideation technique, participants are encouraged to consider new realities to extreme degrees.
As the Interaction Design Foundation reminds us, creativity is about journeying through stimuli with a possible abstract or unseen destination in mind. Often, we’ll explore multiple paths to arrive at this destination; provocations help to inject the unconventional into these thinking patterns and provide the material from which a new idea might emerge.
Provocation is a lateral thinking technique, an indirect approach to problem solving. In lateral thinking, the word “Po” is used to signal provocations. Take a look at the following example by Thought Egg:
Cars run out of gas after only a few hundred miles
Po, Invent a car that tows a gas station behind it
Po, Invent a car that runs on air
Po, Make everything that the car has to drive to closer
UX ideation technique #2: Challenge Assumptions
Challenging your assumptions is an important task that all creative teams should do throughout product development.
This UX ideation technique forces participants to take a step back from the ideation process and start questioning aspects about the product they are trying to create. Usually this task will be based around a pre-defined term in order to generate more innovative ideas.
Challenging Assumptions may involve any of the followings techniques, according to Fast Fedora:
- Redefining words in assumptions
- Examining qualifiers (words that turn statements and assumptions into over-generalizations such as “never” and “always”)
- Testing negative statements to ensure the re-stated assumption still makes sense
- Cross-validating assumptions
UX ideation technique #3: Prototype
Did you know that prototyping can also be a UX ideation technique?
Think about it. When you create prototypes, you’re basically sketching/building out ideas before moving on to the final stages of the design process.
The great thing about including prototypes in your ideation technique is that they keep things visual. When your team can envision your idea, it’s much easier to get behind it, or give it some constructive criticism.
Also, your prototype can be as basic or detailed as you like. If you’re at the very start of your UX ideation phase, you could sketch a quick low-fidelity wireframe with pen and paper.
If you’re defining more specific details, design and/or functionality of a feature you could use a tool like
Justinmind to design a high-fidelity prototype. Justinmind’s prototypes can built out with interactions and responsive features so that you can visualize your design ideas as realistically as possible, and across multiple devices.
Learn more about the benefits of prototyping in the UX design process here.
UX ideation technique #4: Storyboard
Storyboarding is a nonlinear brainstorming technique that involves developing a visual story related to a problem. It helps participants explore the problem in depth and come up with potential solutions through bringing the narrative to life.
To introduce storyboarding as a UX ideation technique in your team, you’ll need: pens, paper and some sticky notes. As participants brainstorm, they write each idea on a card or sticky note, and post it randomly on a wall or other predetermined location. When brainstorming is complete, participants can begin to sequence the items based on the specific goal of the session.
Any project that requires the ability to move items around and categorize, sequence and look at information simultaneously could benefit from storyboarding. Learn more about implementing storyboarding into your creative process here.
UX ideation technique #5: Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a combination of informal problem solving and lateral thinking. The technique intends for participants to come up with eccentric ideas. Some of these thoughts and ideas are crafted into original and creative solutions to problems, whereas help to spark additional ideas.
To perform the brainstorming UX ideation technique, start by laying out the problem you want to solve and identifying the objectives of a possible solution. Then, try to generate solutions individually before bringing everyone together to share. MindTools says that participants should neither be criticized nor rewarded: this helps the flow of ideas and avoids stunted idea generation.
Watch this video on brainstorming done right:
UX ideation technique #6: Brainwriting
Brainwriting is an alternative approach to brainstorming. Simply put, instead of asking participants to yell out ideas, you ask them to write them down. Then, each participant’s ideas are passed on to another participant who then reads them out and/or adds new ones.
The idea behind this UX ideation technique is to reduce the anxiety and pressure that comes with brainstorming. With less tension, ideas can flow more freely.
According to Smashing Magazine, brainwriting should be done when:
- You have quiet people in your group who are easily intimidated
- Your time is limited and you need ideas fast
- You don’t have an experienced moderator
However, avoid brainwriting when working on complex issues that require open discussion and clarification.
UX ideation technique #7: Worst Possible Idea
Worst Possible Idea is a great way to get your team’s creative juices flowing. The name is pretty self-explanatory: participants are asked to come up with the worst possible ideas for the solution in question.
Start by asking participants to collectively create a list of bad ideas. From there, it’s essentially a reinvigorated flagging session. The winner? The participant who comes up with the most awful, stupid, unthinkable idea.
One of the main objectives of this UX ideation technique is to relieve anxiety and tension. As IDF suggests, it’s much easier to say “Hey no that’s not bad enough” than the opposite.
You never know, looking at the worst possible idea could lead you to the best one! As Inc. puts it:
“The worst idea technique can re-energize an oft-deadly innovation session in moments, causing great energy and great ideas to ﬂow.”
UX ideation technique #8: Gamestorming
Gamestorming is a set of ideation methods that help participants break down barriers, overcome conflicts, improve communication skills and generate new ideas and strategies. Examples of gamestorming include 6-8-5 sketching, Fishbowl and Cover Story – explore more about these here.
Gamifying processes doesn’t stop at UX ideation, gamification is making its way into all areas of the design process in order to help users feel like they’re making progress.
To get started with your own gamestorming ideation technique, grab some colored markers, some paper and postit notes – plus this book by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo on gamestorming for innovators.
8 UX ideation techniques to try out: the takeaway
New ideas are exciting. But without a strong UX ideation technique, you risk missing out on that one great idea.
So which technique should you choose? Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to ideation.
Now that you’re more familiar with the UX ideation techniques listed above, you can start testing them out to determine which best suits your team and your product. A targeted UX ideation technique will boost the effectiveness of your design process and may save wasted time and resources.
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