Tools for running a successful UX workshop

Posted by | August 11, 2014 | Innovation and ideas, User Experience | No Comments
Storyboard of a workshop participants typical day.
Running a successful User Experience workshop is of course a bit of a skill, but does not need to be as daunting as might first appear. A well thought out structure to the day, coupled with engaging and fun activities, goes a long way to helping everyone to collaborate, engage with each other and to enjoy themselves.

In this article we shall look at a couple of UX workshop exercises that will help you to run a great day for all involved. These two are slightly unusual in that they are not post-it note sorting type of exercises, but do work very well in conjunction with these.
(We shall use the term ‘website’ throughout our tool examples but of course these can be used for mobile apps, services, products and so forth as well and indeed in combination with each other.)

1. Design the Box

Design the box worksheet completed for the student persona.
This exercise encourages people to think about our website from an overview and hopefully exciting perspective. We encourage them to think of all of the wonderful things that they would like to include in the creation of this product / experience.

What do our users want from this and how can we communicate with them? How do we get them excited? How do we provide the right service? It helps to open up discussion on the structure, new features and even the organisation itself.


  • Put your participants into small groups (no more than two or three to a team ideally) and ask them to imagine that our new website is similar to a packet of ‘Daz’ sitting on a supermarket shelf. ‘Persil’ if that floats your boat:) Take our blank box and design the packaging and key messages to sell this to our prospective audience and ‘buyer’s’.
  • What will make it stand out and make it concise? What are the core propositions and features? What is the key message we want to get across? How is our new ‘thing’ different from everybody else’s?
  • Ask the groups to present these back to everyone for discussion.

This exercise is a perfect ice-breaker to start off your workshop day or to shake off the afternoon blues after lunch or a break. Also, it can nicely follow the creation of User Personas or User Groups. For instance, you can pick a specific User Persona and ‘design the box’ aimed specifically at them. And then repeat the exercise for a different persona. An internal Senior Manager may well want very different things to a students needs after all.

The Design the Box template that I use can be found at, from the wonderful book ‘Undercover User Experience’.

2. Day in the Life

Storyboard of a workshop participants typical day.
In this exercise we want the group to tell us about their day, what they do and how they interact with all forms of media. They can hopefully enjoy drawing when they get up, have breakfast, catch a plane, what their working day is like, going on a date and so forth. We are looking to not only find out how they interact with the digital world during their day, but also how their other ‘real’ world actions can inform our User Experience thinking.

Do they tend to access the web in general from the comfort of their own home or workplace, or whilst dashing about on the move via a mobile or tablet? What websites, mobile apps do they tend to visit during the day? When and how do they interact with our organisation during the day, and not just in an online fashion?

How can their working day inform us about our scoping of our new website? Likewise with their personal day? For instance, this exercise once showed in no uncertain terms to a client of mine that they needed to consider mobile users for their new offering.


  • Ask the participants to think about a day in their life and then create a storyboard or sketch showing what a typical day for them is like. Maybe yesterday or the day before if that helps them focus. Does their typical day include dealing with our organisation?
  • Where are they and who are they with? Where do they start? What do they look for? What do they then do with this information? All within the context of how they go about their life on a typical day.
  • Then ask the participants to talk the group through their day, adding any details then revealed from the groups questions and ensuing discussion.

This exercise works very nicely if undertaken just after a post-it note exercise (or the like) which has generated the existing and / or wished for functionality of our website. We could then run another exercise called something like ‘Our website and me’ where the participants place the items of functionality onto their day in the life storyboard, thus showing where they use or wish to use the content and features we have or are proposing.

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