Beginners Guide to Running an Agile and Effective UX Workshop

IGNITE® Digital Agency - 19 February 2019

A three-minute introduction to User Experience Design

The UX design process can be complex and laborious, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to come to an optimal final outcome, but the primary goal is simply to use design thinking to gain insights into your users’ interaction with your product or website, whilst effectively solving for your user’s pain points.

Three common mistakes when designing a website or product are:

  • Designing for yourself (making uneducated assumptions about the user)
  • Not having an effective framework or process for user-driven design to follow
  • Building too much too fast and taking too long to validate your interface design (the aim is to release early and often, to understand what it is that the users want)

Avoid these issues by:

  • Engaging in design thinking that focuses on the user
  • Defining, prototyping and testing quickly

Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Best defining your users (and how did you get this information and/or data?)
  • Translating user needs and business goals
  • Aligning and focusing your team and the client

UX and Live Facilitation

User Experience Design (UXD) is the process of enhancing user satisfaction by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product. The user is at the centre of the experience. Surrounding this, we have interaction all the other elements which make up your website such as webpage design, information architecture, visual design, functionality, usability, typography, the user interface, and content strategy.

The 5 Elements of UX

As designers, we’re familiar with certain deliverables – namely wireframes, sitemaps, user personas etc. With user experience design process, there are a few more strategic elements to consider before jumping into the design of a website. There are five important elements for user experience design, each building on the next layer. The user interface that we see is just the final product (part of the ‘Surface’ element), and is dependent on the other four elements of UX.

5 Elements of UX

  1. Strategy – Why? What are we doing this?
  2. Scope – what are you actually building?
  3. Structure – overall taxonomy, the structure of the site
  4. Skeleton – wireframes, what it is structured as
  5. Surface – what we see i.e. the interface

Design Thinking

When conducting UX processes and exercises, the ability to empathise with and play the role of the user is fundamental. If you are coming from a design background, there is a tendency for stubbornness and ego to get in the way of focusing on solving for your user. Traditional designers who might be transitioning into the world of user experience design might have a specific way of working which makes sense to them, and be tempted to come up with a concrete concept in their mind which they a reluctant to change. The key with the user experience design process is to be flexible and fluid – allowing the concept to change with the user. Skills in empathy are vital in every part of the UX process.

Live Facilitated UX Sessions

A live facilitated UX session involves bringing together all the relevant stakeholders in a website project. This can be done as part of the ‘Discovery’ phase or workshop, and requires a UX or project lead to facilitate collaborative exercises and group meetings which align the goals and needs of the client to the design and development team.


There are a huge variety of UX processes that can be incorporated into solving for user experience, but the most productive way is to have your team and the client’s team in the same room to discuss and agree on strategy, then create an overarching optimal solution for usability.

With a range of different stakeholders with different goals and motivations, it can be difficult to define the strategy and scope for the project. This is why getting in a room to hash out the project scope is vital, early on in any digital project.


The below example agenda illustrates the need for brevity through every part of the process. People don’t have the attention span to spend over an hour on one thing, so the idea is to cover things fast. Allow for lots of ideas and brainstorm divergent thinking, then prioritise.

Introductions 5 minutes
Define the core idea 15 minutes
Goals and Interests 30 minutes
User Persona x 3 45 minutes (15 minutes each)
User Goals 30 minutes
User Story x 2 45 minutes (15 minutes each)
User Story Wireframes x 3 45 minutes (15 minutes each)
Present/review wireframes  45 minutes
Next steps 45 minutes



User experience is about getting the goals of the business and the user’s needs in line. This is done by aligning the brand, goals and the user. A lot of people forego this alignment process – why? Because of time constraints. With deadlines looming, it’s easy to forget about the process required for a successful project. But putting in the time at the beginning of the project will save you from overlooking some bigger issues down the road.

Start by breaking the positioning down into attributes which represent the brand and the project. These keywords are used to devise a brand statement in order to clarify what the core and purpose of the website project is.

Use the following template as a guide.

[Insert Company Name] provides [Insert Service or Product] to [Broad User Group/Demographic] via [How the brand does what it does] to [Why the brand does what it does].

STEP 3: Goals and Interests

Start by identifying the business’s goals and interests. This is the most effective way to highlight what might be the goals and interests of your users.

Get all members of the session to identify goals for each category. The client team will help in identifying overarching goals, and members of your team should help them effectively define them as SMART goals that make sense in the digital context.

You might find it easier create goals by thinking of them in 3 categories:

  • Revenue goals – how you will make your money
  • Awareness goals – how you will get more customers to discover you
  • Efficiency goals – manners in which you will systemise your organisational process


Defining user profiles is essential to defining the demographics and psychographics of your users.

A full user persona might include:

  • Demographics – age, gender, income, marital status, spouse, kids, job
  • Story – challenges, jobs, ambitions
  • Needs – what do they need to solve their challenges?
  • Solutions – what do we need to provide to meet their needs?

Often with a project, there might not be a great deal of concrete research to work off. Find out what you can from Google Analytics data of the existing site (if applicable). Using that as a base, the rest of the blanks can be filled in by empathising with the user. This is where having the client in the room really helps, because they know their user better than anyone else.

Empathy Map

You can use an empathy map to workshop who your user is and find out what motivates them. Your empathy map should identify user attributes using the following quadrants:

  • Says – place exact quotes here if you have user comments or have conducted interviews
  • Does – what is their role in society, family, friends, living situation
  • Thinks – their inferred behaviours
  • Feels – internal thoughts and feelings

Tip: remind yourself that there is no ‘broader audience.’ Create 3 well-defined user personas, targeting 3 different people as if you know them and their personality well. This is how you empathise with their needs as a user. Do not target a broad group such as ‘young mums’ or ‘millennials’ – go for detailed personas who are a concrete representation of a varying segment of your target market. This will help you make more informed decisions.

STEP 5: USER Goals Prioritisation

Get into the mind of your users by identifying and prioritising their goals. Keep the user personas you’ve identified in mind. You can do this using a variety of methods, some more structured than others.

Rate each of the goals our of 10 in terms of achievability and desirability. (i.e. how badly do you need this goal to be achieved? How easily can you achieve this?) Use this to create a median priority score for each goal out of 20, then circle the goals that score above a certain value e.g. 13.

STEP 6: WRITING The User Story

The User Story aka User Journey, is essentially the journey that the user will go on when they make contact with your website. Using the personas that have been created, think about the goals and needs of the specific user and how they might engage with the site (at various touchpoints) and achieve what they are after.

Questions to ask:

  • Discover: How will they find out about you?
  • Engage: What makes them engage?
  • Return: What will make them return?
  • Recommend: Why would they recommend the site/app to others?

This will allow you to come up with a user story that shows each touchpoint chronologically. Devise a mini-story for each category/touchpoint: Discover, Engage, Return, and Recommend. The overarching user story will guide how you sketch out the thumbnails for the wireframes – in turn making sure you focus on the user when designing features, functionality requirements, and content hierarchy.

STEP 7: Sketching the User Story (WIREFRAMES)

The user story outlined above is going to guide how you sketch out the following thumbnails. In preparation for beginning to thumbnail out the interface:

  • You may need to have the client document their requirements on post-its. This will allow you to visually see the existing product (if there is one) and what features are and aren’t required
  • Print out screens of the current product and the existing user story and mark it with annotations for improvements, based on what you’ve discussed so far
  • Discuss features and prioritise (what can be done within this project scope, budget and timeline?)

Consider the taxonomy of the information. Modularity is also important to the site – look at current design trends and new platforms.

Wireframe and created an interactive prototype of the lo-fi sketches immediately after the user session. The result is a deliverable that has been agreed on by all the attendees of the session.

This allows the prototype to be tested immediately, instead of taking too long to validate and confirm whether users do or don’t benefit from the value proposition in the user experience.


With user experience design, there are an endless amount of ways to come to the same conclusion. Don’t get bogged down with the technical terms, various structured methods of executing the same thing. Focus on the user and the rest will follow.

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