How to Run a Concepting Workshop

*** Originally Posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

Awhile back I wrote a post about how to run a workshop, in the general sense. I thought that I would write out the steps for a concepting workshop in particular. Concepting workshops are ones that we do a lot at Adaptive Path. They are great for when you need to generate a lot of ideas around an issue in a short amount of time. They can be done with large or small groups, with designers, developers, and managers.

1. Create the agenda for the day. Determine what it is you will be sketching and what your goal is for the end of the session. For a full day workshop, say from 10-4, plan on 20 minutes of sketching, then 30-40 minutes to discuss what was created. You might have four sketching heats in a day, each focused on a different topic or nuance of the issue. Be sure to include a hour for lunch and a break in the morning and afternoon, as people do get tired.

2. Gather your materials. You are going to need lots of Sharpies or markers, drafting dots or tape to hang the sketches up, sticky notes, and the paper to draw on. Give participants options with different colors and sizes of markers and different color sticky notes.

3. Use a Sketch Sheet. I've found that having stacks of Sketch Sheets (PDF: 12 KB) work really well. They are a half-sheets of paper, so they aren't as intimidating as full sheets. They include room for the sketch as well as a description (in words) of what it does and what it's like. This is very helpful since sometimes it's hard to tell what is going on in a quick sketch. You can certainly use blank paper for sketching too. Just be sure to always have participants title their sketches. It helps to focus the sketch and remember it later.

4. Capture the discussion on the board with the stickies. After everyone sketches, have them paste their sketches up on the wall. As a group go through and talk about them. Capture the discussion on sticky notes as you talk. You'll want to include things like descriptions for how the sketch works and additional ideas or concerns that are raised in the discussion.

5. Review and refine after the workshop. Once the workshop is over, the real work for you begins. You'll want to review all of the sketches and refine or redraw the most promising. Duplicate ideas can be redrawn into a single representation. You might also want to work in ideas from the conversation to strengthen the sketch.

6. Create a concept book. Not all of the sketches you produce in the workshop will make it into your design. But you don't want to lose the good ideas that were generated. Document all the sketches that were created in a concept book. Scan in the sketches and then add annotations to explain what is happening. This provides a great resource that you can refer to later.

UX for Good and the CeaseFire Challenge

*** Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

This weekend I had the pleasure to attend UX for Good in Chicago. It was an amazing event, spearheaded by Jason Ulaszek and Jeff Leitner, that focused on solving problems for five social causes: unemployment, urban violence, public education, community mental health, and cross-cultural understanding. I was part of the urban violence team.

Graphic Facilitation Poster by at UX for Good

There were nine of us experience designers, a visual designer, and a kick-ass volunteer coordinator. We worked with a group called CeaseFire, based in Chicago. CeaseFire is a campaign that is tackling the problem of urban violence by treating it as a public health problem. Their premise is that if you can stop the violent behavior, and you can shift society’s norms around violence, there will not be as many shootings and killings. They have a network of interrupters, outreach workers and more who go into high-risk neighborhoods and work with the individuals most at risk for causing violence. They support those individuals however they need to, to get them to put down the guns. There is a movie called The Interrupters that just premiered at Sundance that focuses on the work that they do. Our challenge was to look at ways to educate the larger community about the work CeaseFire is doing, to change the larger community’s perception of violence, and channel their support of CeaseFire.

Our team spent the 14 or so hours we had trying to better understand the problems that CeaseFire has, how they work, and what kind of help they need and want. We developed a whole host of ideas of how Well Intentioned Individuals can participate and support CeaseFire.

Members of CeaseFire

We also developed a model for interaction and context. This model shows the different levels of engagement that can be taken in the different contexts. The model starts in the center with the actions a person can take in their living room, such as educating themselves, donating money and blogging about CeaseFire. It expands out to actions they can take in their community, the CeaseFire community, the client community, their city, and lastly the world. This model provides a framework that the various ideas we came up with can fit into.

Awareness Building in Context

Most of our team members are local to Chicago. They will be following up with different members of CeaseFire to see how these ideas can be put into motion. There is a lot of work to be done, but the initial connections have been made. I’m curious to see how things develop.

One thing for sure is that the conference has changed me. Listening to the stories and watching the videos of the work the interrupters and outreach workers has changed the way I think about my city, San Francisco, and neighboring Oakland. I think all the participants of UX for Good were profoundly touched by the causes and teams they worked on. While the organizations we worked with certainly benefited from participating, I think it’s the effect that work had on us individually that will prove to be the most important.

The Adaptive Path Library

*** Originally Posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

Adaptive Path has a lending library for its employees and interns to use. The San Francisco Library has been around for about four years and we have 488 books in the collection, plus periodicals. I am the Librarian for the San Francisco Library; our other studios are working on creating libraries of their own.

The Adaptive Path Library

The library is run as a small, special library, much like the scientific library at the Rowland Institute at Harvard, where I used to work. There are no due dates and no fines. People check out the books for as long as they need. A few times a year I send a reminder email of the books folks have checked out and remind them to return them if they are no longer using them.

I use Delicious Library as the library catalog. We are still in the process of getting the catalog online. Luckily the collection is small enough that folks can browse the shelves for what they are looking for, or they ask me.

The library uses real library supplies, such as plastic book jackets for hard covered books, checkout cards and book pockets. Each book is cataloged and assigned a Library of Congress catalog number. I decided on Library of Congress because of the technical nature of the books in the collection. Most of the cataloging is copy cataloging using the Library of Congress catalog or OCLC’s World Cat.

Checkout Cards

We don’t have a strong collection development policy. Many people donate books to the library. We have a monthly budget to spend on books. Folks will make requests for a title or I will order something that I think people would be interested in. I send out an email to the company with the new titles whenever I add books.

I think the most important principles for a studio library to have are:

1. A way to keep track of what books there are and who has what checked out.

2. A clear organizational scheme so people can find a book on the shelf.

3. Plastic jackets for hard cover books really does help protect them. The jackets get really beat up quickly otherwise.

I don't think it matters what system (e.g., Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, your own organizational system) you use as long as it meets those three points. I used a traditional library system because that's what I know and I knew it would scale. The important thing is that the books are there and people can find them and use them.

AP Library Shelves

Use It or Lose It Registration

Hot off the desks of the Adaptive Path Events Team! You don't want to miss these.


Don't let your 2010 education budget go down the drain. Lock in the best deal now, pay the difference in 2011.

Here's how:
1) Register to any event by December 31st using the "Pay-by-check" option.
2) We'll contact you to pay what you can now (minimum $350).
3) Pay the remaining balance by January 31st.
4) Do a jig that you just worked the system!

Questions? Need help? Contact us at apevents [at] adaptivepath [dot] com


MX 2011: Managing Experiences Across the Web and Beyond
A conference for people who take a leadership role in guiding better experiences into the world.
March 6-7 @ The Intercontinental, San Francisco
Early Bird pricing: $1,295 (through December 31st)

UX Intensive Amsterdam: Our popular four-day workshop for experienced UX folks wanting to take their practice to the next level.
April 18-21 @ Radisson Blu Hotel, Amsterdam
Early Bird pricing: $1,695 all four days | $495 single days (through December 31st)

UX Week: The premier UX conference. Now with more awesome!
August 23-26 @ Mission Bay Conference Center, San Francisco
Early Bird pricing: $1,395 (through December 31st)

How To Plan a Workshop

*** Originally posted on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

We do a lot of workshopping here at Adaptive Path. It’s a great way to get the client teams involved in the design process and invested in the results (since they helped create them). We are always trying to adapt our workshop process, with different activities and outcomes. But I have found that there is a basic structure that helps ensure that the workshop will run smoothly.

1. Determine the goal of the workshop. There’s nothing worse than gathering a bunch of people together for 3 hours without knowing why they are there. Be clear on what you want to get out of your workshop time together. Workshops are great for generating lots of ideas in a short amount of time. They are bad for just talking at people. Focus in on what ideas you want to gather and the form you want them to take.

2. Write up a Workshop One Sheet. I like to create a one-page document that outlines all the major components of the workshop. This includes the goal, a detailed schedule and materials list. I print it out for each member of the team. I refer to it throughout the workshop to make sure that I’m keeping everyone on track and on time. It also includes the top-line steps for each activity so I can remember what we are doing.

3. Schedule it all out. I like to plan all the activities out, sometimes to the minute. I always start with a 10-minute introduction and stage setting. Activities generally go for 45 minute to 1-hour chunks, e.g., 2 sketching sessions with discussion in an hour. A rule of thumb is 10 minutes of sketching time means 20 minutes of discussion. If your workshop is longer than 2 hours, put in time for a break. It’s also good idea to have a short break between activities so folks can mentally transition. And always include 5-10 minutes of buffer time. If you don’t need it you can always end 5 minutes early.

4. Don’t try to do too much. The larger the group of participants, the longer things take. Group discussions are great, but you need to keep them moving or they can drag on. You also need to remember that idea generation is tiring and people get worn out. Sometimes two shorter workshops is better than a big marathon session.

5. Staff appropriately. Great workshops don’t just happen. You have to plan before and manage during. Select one person on your team to be the workshop lead (it doesn’t have to be the project lead). This person will do the introductions, explain the activities and moderate the discussions. Depending upon the size of your workshop, you will want 1-2 other folks there to help the workshop run smoothly. They will be floaters during the activities, answering questions, getting more materials, and helping to prep for the next activity.

6. Know it’s going to change. While it’s great when workshops go according to plan, many good ones veer off course. Sometimes you have to adjust the activities on-the-fly depending upon how the group dynamics are or how long certain parts are taking. If you are getting good results, the conversations are enlightening and people are engaged, that’s more important than sticking to the plan.

*** Posted originally on the Adaptive Path Blog ***

Strategy and design are two crucial elements when it comes to site design and development. In my work at Adaptive Path, I've worked on a number of projects that focus on these two key elements. We'll end the project with a stack of deliverables, often including HTML templates and CSS files, the pieces and parts the client will need to move forward.

And yet, this can be an uncomfortable transition at times. We've put in so much hard work to plan and think and design how the features and elements of the site will work. It's now up to the client to take the next leap into Implementation. This can sometimes feel like a murky wilderness, with unknown snares and dangers the client is left to navigate on their own.

Mostly this stems from the fear of the unknown. Sites have a habit of growing organically overtime, and clients are unaware of the implementation processes they have been through in the past. There is a lack of clarity around what tasks and events go into making an implementation successful.

I've put together this this diagram that shows the general tasks that go into a typical site redesign with a new CMS implementation. It shows where the Strategy and Design tasks stop and where Implementation starts. It also shows what roles are involved in the different stages.

Implementation Diagram [PDF: 49KB]

Berkeley Humane Society Needs Your Help

Please re-post to boost the signal.

They had a fire this morning that destroyed most of their facility and killed several animals, including 12 cats. They need donations, volunteers to help with clean-up, and people to temporarily foster pets.

"I want it that way"

I work with the best people.

Tales from Redesignland

I'm totally enjoying the blog Tales from Redesignland. He has an adorable little comic that he does that wouldn't be half as funny if it wasn't so true.

I'm tempted to decorate the halls of AP with his motivational posters like this one.

Happy Women's Equality Day!

You may not have remembered it, but today is Women's Equality Day, the day that celebrates the passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women full voting rights.

I think that we forget that women didn't always have the freedoms that we have today. It was back in 1848 that women started getting together to work for the right to vote. Remember Susan B. Anthony and Seneca Falls, NY? The 19th Amendment wasn't passed until 1920. 1920! We've only had that right for 88 years.

I often wax nostalgic about past times, and yearn to have lived way back when. But then I remember that I probably wouldn't have been taught how to read or write. I wouldn't have been able to own property, let alone vote or be involved in government. I would have been married off at a young age and my principle job would have been to have sons. My husband would have been allowed to beat me if he wanted.

Of course there were women who didn't live lives as restricted as this, but they were fewer and father between than we like to think. No, I think I'll stick with the 21st century after all.


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