The company I work for is incredible. I have an amazingly talented manager and an incredibly innovative, creative Vice President. Both are huge advocates for UX, usability testing and cutting edge user research methods. Another area in which they are very supportive, is the area of persona research. We have spent a good amount of time on our persona research, and it’s proven to be worth its weight in gold. We have been able to leverage the persona research in some really cool ways. I wanted to share with you a persona centered brainstorming method that has been particularly effective.
Our company’s flagship product is a CMS that allows school districts to maintain web properties with ease. Recently we created an end user layer called MyView, which functions as a dashboard for parents, students, staff members and community members. It’s an extremely powerful feature, and that is in large part due to our initial persona centered design brainstorming session. I’m going to outline the process we followed in hopes that it can aid some other organizations in the future.
Step 1: Get out of the office.
We met offsite. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s huge. In office meetings are great, but when you want to get the creative juices flowing being in a remote area with no “pop in” distractions can really aid in focusing on the task at hand.
Step 2: Respect one another.
We have a team dynamic in which every team member is free to share ideas without fear of judgment. Every member of our team has respect for one another and feels comfortable sharing ideas.
Step 3: Integrate user personas in your design brainstorming.
We did a really cool exercise in which each member of our team adopted a key user persona, complete with name tag. Each of us then looked at the design from our adopted persona’s point of view. You wouldn’t believe how different your mental design process ends up when you’re looking at a concept from a specific persona point of view, rather than your own.
Step 4: Draw Pictures.
I have less than zero talent when it comes to drawing. Seriously, even my stick figures are pitiful. Asking every member of the team (Architects, Content Strategists, UX Designers, Vice Presidents I’m talking EVERY member) to draw what they envision the product to look like, and asking them to integrate the features they feel would be most important to their adopted user persona, is a really cool way to come up with innovative user centered ideas. Break out grid paper and sharpies for those who, like me, can’t even draw a straight line, and have at it.
Step 5. Create your V1 mockups on the spot.
How many times have you had a fantastic productive brainstorming meeting, gone home, come back the next day and you can’t figure out what in the world your notes mean? Create your V1 mockups before you leave while the ideas are still fresh in your mind.
We wound up with a completely killer design, and later an equally killer product enhancement using this method. I hope your company can benefit from it as well! May your products live long and prosper… with a little help from persona centered design brainstorming sessions.