No one opens a new sketch file and starts designing, that’s not how great products were built. ideation stage is very important not only to produce ideas and concepts but also to understand the connections between all the information you have. at this stage I think Steve jobs was totally right, you are connecting dots from the past [research, experiences are the past] and it shapes the future [ideation will shape it].
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down and it has made all the difference in my life.
Dots are your research findings, your previous falls and learned experiences, it could be such knowledge or point you remember out of a very old article you read before. it could be anything you learned. it could be any kind of previous situations you faced in person or someone told you about it. it’s about your humanity when all your previous life is mixed with your current moment to answer only one question. How Might We…
There are many ideation techniques, such as shut-it-loud, art-boards, but since we have our design opportunities, challenges and Wow-Factors documented. I prefer to use “cards” again, so usually, we share cards with problems (design opportunities, challenges, and Wow-Factors) with the team, and each team member write on the back of the card his idea — with a short description, principles that the concept relays on, and the lighting demos (inspiration links). after that, we could anonymously vote dots, and then I prefer to have a decider — so he decides (based on his understanding of the project goals & previous qualifications) to go with a specific concept for each design challenge. That could work also with online card sharing solutions and voting apps. It’s not a very hard activity. but actually, it needs to be moderated the right way. let’s talk about ideation methods.
There are many different ideation methods and styles. you could notice the difference between the same method — in two or more different companies and teams. but in general, they work with the same purposes at least. we ideat in the aim of producing lots of ideas, which we can decide later to go with any of it.
Many of the different ideation methods could be in Digital or Physical we could merge both in the same session sometimes. so it’s important to consider the ultimate goal of this phase to deeply understand which method, and in which context/platform would be better based on the project situation. You could find Ideation methods as a part of the 4I’s labs.
For me, I would encourage you to use any of The Physical Ideation methods. and through the next part of this article, I’ll tell you how I do it.
Physical Ideation Session
It happens when everybody is in the same room. basically, it requires team members (Participants), Post-it notes, Vote dots, prepare some ideation topics printed, and an empty room. this could be included in those points:
- The Participants.
- The Tools box.
- The Moderator.
- The Location.
- How to?
Next, Let’s talk deeply about each point.
1- The Participants:
Team members who are involved already. with a good at least qualifications. Please choose those who will make the process easy & effective, and don’t put any marketing bitches who might waste the team members time. I suggest if you use the team members like (UX Designers, UI Designers, Project management, business developers, marketing) and you can add a stack-holder if he is qualified.
2- The Tools Box:
- No 1, you need to deliver the research insights in printed papers.
- No 2, you need to print in groups papers with the problem context (design opportunities, challenges, and Wow-Factors) with a quote of there are any — and if there are any kind of important insights about this feature users especially (something different between the usual system users or even some stunning number or insights out of the research).
- It should contain important information such as [ the user, what he want to do, and how usually he do it] also you should clarify [environmental information/ touch point/ feelings] and you could add any kind of information looks important to guide your team to the right idea.
- No 3, you should always have this kind of mood-boards or printed lighting demos. also, make sure that any kind of printed papers follows at least the product brand guidelines, even if it’s new or it still in progress. you need to keep the Participants in the mode, they need to feel your brand deeply inside.
- No 4, Countdown. it will be much better if you did not use any kind of digital countdown during the ideation session. also try to close all the mobiles, or collect it if you can. you need all the members to be focused on only one goal.
- No 5, voting dots. you need any small-rounded stickers to use during voting dots.
3- The Moderator:
It’s important to have a person who will control this session, the moderator will start, end, guide the team through any activity. he may need to give a short introduction to the ideation session, and some research, principles and best practices highlights.
4- The Location:
Book a room, with a large screen, comfortable seats, and a wall — you should be able to use this wall to stick your notes at some point.
5- How to?
- Step 1, Introduce the activity to your team members. tell them insights out of the research results, and give them 20 Min (for example) to search about Lighting Demos (This video will tell you about the Lighting-Demos).
- Step 2, Group the “design opportunities, challenges, and Wow-Factors” cards, based on the topic or at least the features groups. then start to share them group by group with your team members.
- Step 3, In each group, you start to introduce the feature — and top highlights out of the research and if you have any general notes. don’t open any kind of discussions right now. just give them 20 min to figure out an idea to solve each problem “The cards should have enough space to write / and sketch the idea”. then, collect the cards again.
- Step 4, Now you will let your team members introduce their ideas to the rest of the team and then they will post-it on the wall. later the team members will use the voting-dots to define which idea is better.
- Step 5, After finishing the entire ideation-cards and by the end of our ideation session. the moderator should be able to define which idea is better — based on the entire session short discussions and voting and his own understanding of the project design principles and clients/end users needs — the moderator will prepare the chosen ideas and also he could deliver some alternative options out of the ideation ideas. which he will use in the next early validation session with the project stack-holders.
What about IA?
We already gathered all possible type of content which will be available within the product. in many cases, the project success relays on the ease of navigate. For example, in an organization online helpdesk project you need to give a real attention to the IA which may help to reduce the count of new support tickets in many cases. I Would recommend practicing Card sorting (closed/open) with your team, you could even involve anyone outside your team if it possible based on project time & availability.
Those articles might help you as well:
IA is already involved with you in many different since it is a very basic component of any UX Design. Defining the design goals will help you to build a much better Information architecture.
Now you have the ideas, you must filter and prepare it for the next step where you validate the selected ideas with your client or stakeholders. before that, you and your team should validate those ideas internally. based on your experiences and expertise. here you aim to validate that those ideas are a reflection of the research findings. there is a real need behind them and you aim to clarify its purpose.
Now, to measure and validate the experience internally, you need to be aware of the Design Principles as much as possible and you should keep in mind The user interaction criteria. and you should be aware of the basics of Conceptual Design. That will help you understand how to choose the right solution somehow, it will help you build a more solid experience. and here are some resources on those topics:
To validate the ideas you have, you could use this template “The Four Quadrants of User Research” and here is another example. The idea here is to rate the suggested concept, based on your previous research insights and expert experiences.
Now, I guess you have the selected concepts and ideas you would like to validate with project owners and let’s move for the next step.
Stakeholders Validation Session
The coast of design change at the early stages is not this much. but when you go forward on the design process — for example when you reach the prototyping stage — the coast will rise up and you will find yourself wasting resources, money and time. by the way, you may also at some point lose the client satisfaction. the early validation sessions with stakeholders or your client might reduce the cost of change to its minimum value. And note, I Don’t mean that you will do whatever the client wants — no, you will show your ideas, rate it with the client and validate its doability, impact and efficiency for the product target audience based on the client previous experiences, that might gives you a good insights in most of cases.
Doability/Impact: nothing will change if they did not implement your ideas in the real world, for that purpose you can use “Impact/Effort Canvas”, To check if it is really possible to build such idea or not from the very beginning. This article also looks very interesting, Why Prioritization by Impact/Effort Doesn’t Work.
How to validate ideas from UX Standpoint with stakeholders?
Mmmm, I think it’s the most complex part since before showing your ideas we went through Expert Validation, and for each idea, you should have a solid understanding of principles, user behaviors which it relays on. before you go to validate ideas with the client you should cover those point for each idea:
- UX Principles.
- Similar actions insights — out of the desk research.
- Experts Validation Results.
- Any Research doc could help as well.
You should fight for good ideas if there are any. UX and Design are not about “completing a project” with only client satisfaction or even implementing your personal believes! but most of it is about the impact you leave on everyone every day in a life.
Now, Let’s move to the next most interesting part, it is the implementation phase where we bring our ideas to the real world!