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1.1 Introducing Workshops

Welcome to “Workshop Your Way Through the Web Design Process”; a course designed to help your projects run more smoothly through the use of workshops.

In this first lesson you will discover the importance and power of workshops. It will also provide some valuable advice on how to kick off a project by running a workshop. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

1.1 Introducing Workshops

Hi folks, welcome to our course on workshopping your way through the web design process. In this video we're going to look at how to workshop your initial kickoff meeting. But before we get into that, let's begin with a fundamental question. What's so great about running a workshop? After all, they can feel like a waste of time if you already have a clear vision of what it is that you need to built. Surely talking to a lot of stakeholders has the potential of just derailing the whole process and, in particular, your vision for it. Unfortunately, projects are rarely like that. It's unusual for you to have all the information you need up front. Even if you do, the chances are that you've only got a single perspective on things. Without engaging with all the stake holders you can easily find a project grinding to a halt later in the process because some key stake holder or another throws a spanner in the works. Workshops are a great way of flushing out these issues and ensuring that there are no nasty surprises. Clients like workshops, too. It's a chance for them to express their opinions, and it helps them feel engaged. And the more engaged somebody is in the process, the more they feel that the resulting website is theirs, and not just yours. And the more ownership they have over it, the less likely they are to reject it. In other words, if people are involved in the creation process, you're gonna have less problems getting their approval later on. Workshops also provide an excellent opportunity to get to know the client. Meeting with them face to face and working on a problem together helps establish a relationship. This gives the client a chance to see that you're the expert and that they can trust you. And that, in turn, makes it less likely they'll reject your ideas. Workshops also allow you to educate the client. One of the biggest problems faced by most web projects is that clients make bad decisions at key moments in the process. And that's because the client's ill equipped to make these kinds of decisions. But by including the client in the creation process through workshops, you've got an opportunity to educate them along the way. That means they're going to understand the direction that has been set because they were involved in setting it. Finally, and most importantly, workshops can lead to better websites. Creating a great website requires many disciplines from across the organization. It needs developers and designers, copywriters and marketers, customer service staff, and business specialists, and, oh, so many more. It's arrogant to think that we can do all of this ourselves. But, put all of those people in the room working together through the problem and it's gonna result in a much more effective website. Now I know what you're thinking, this all sounds good in theory, but when you tried running a workshop it was a bit of a disaster. Well, that's what this course is about. It's about teaching you how to run better workshops to ensure more successful projects. Take, for example, the most common workshop of all, the one that most of us as web designers do. The kickoff meeting. This is one of the most important meetings that you will hold in a project, and yet, often it can feel like a waste of time, nothing more, than a meet and greet session. In fact, run right, a good kickoff meeting can transform your project. To do that, you need to know three things. You need to know who should be there, what should be your objectives are for the meeting, and what questions you need to answer. So let's look at each of these in turn. The most important thing about a kickoff meeting is to get the right people in the room. And there are basically two types of people that need to be in attendance. There are those with the power, and than there are those who know the user. Instead, many kickoff meetings are just the manager responsible for running the project, and often they're not the best person, really, to have there as they don't have the ultimate sign off, and they don't necessarily understand what users need. It's really important you ensure anyone who has the say over the approval of the project is in the room even if that includes somebody like the managing director. But don't stop there. Those making the final decision are often horribly out of touch with what customers actually want. So you need some front line staff there, too. People who answer user questions, and deal with them on a regular basis. With the right people in the room, you then can go about deciding what your objectives are for the meeting. You see if you don't have clear objectives for your kickoff meeting, the meeting will quickly devolve into some pleasantries and vague discussion about the project. You need to know what you're trying to achieve. First and foremost, a kickoff meeting is about setting expectations. The chances are, most of the people in the room are not going to be very familiar with how websites are built, and you need to explain the basics to them. First, you need to explain what their role is. I tend to focus the client on business objectives and user needs. I explain to them that their job is to make sure the website that is produced meets the needs of the business, and of the user. My job, on the other hand, is to worry about how that is done. In other words, if they see a problem, I encourage them to express the problem and not to try and come up with a solution. I discourage clients from telling me, for example, to change the color to pink. That's the solution. Instead I encourage them to express the underlying problem in terms of a user need, or a business objective. For example, I'm worried that our pre-teen girl audience won't like the blue. It then my job to find the most appropriate solution. For example, instead of using pink, I might decide to use more unicorns, or ponies, or whatever it is that pre-teen girls like. Setting expectations is also about explaining to the client what's gonna happen in the process. Explaining your process is a great way of reassuring the client that you're in control of this, and you've done it before. It's your opportunity to emphasize that you're the expert. But it's also an opportunity to emphasize the milestones that the client is gonna be responsible for. Things like delivering content. But remember, you're also trying to build a rapport with the client in these meetings. So, you don't want to sound like you're laying down the law. Instead, help them to understand what is going to happen. Keep the meeting lightweight and conversational, and, if possible, fun. You have to work with these people over a long period of time, and so, you want them to go away liking you. It's gonna make it a lot easier further down the line if they like you as a person. They're gonna stick with you, even when things get a bit rocky. Now the main way you can make your clients like you is simply by being enthusiastic about their project, showing that you care. The last thing you want from a kickoff meeting is to answer some very basic questions. In particular, you want to better understand their business objectives and their target audience. Now, we're gonna be looking at that in more detail in a latter video, and looking at how to extract that kind of information. But for now, just bear in mind that it's important information that you have to gather if you gonna avoid surprises further down the line. Talking of surprises, make sure that you talk to them about any other related projects that might be impacting your work. It's surprising how often a company might be purchasing a content management system at the same time as working with you, or going through a rebranding process. Finally, talking about the subject of branding, make sure that you have any style guide information, or any examples of print material that they have. Many design projects come to a halt because somebody neglected to mention the very strict guidelines that the company works within when it comes to the design. Now, I've covered a lot of ground in this video, and we'll be digging into some of the details that I've skimmed over in a later lesson. But, for now, I just wanted to leave you with a single take away. Workshops lead to better websites. Our inclination is to work in isolation and limit the client's involvement. We're afraid of what will happen if they get involved. But in the long term, this is damaging. It alienates the client, and leads to surprises later in the process, and damages the quality of the final result. Of course, the big question is how do you go about running a good workshop? And that's gonna be the topic for our next lesson.. But until then, thanks for watching.

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