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Webworkshop 1
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2.2 Workshop Design

The single most contentious part of the web design process is “look and feel”. Fortunately, there are some great workshop exercises that can help. Rather than excluding the client from the design process for fear of what they will say, use these exercises to engage them. This provides them with a sense of ownership over the design, making them less likely to reject it.

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2.2 Workshop Design

Hi folks, and welcome back to workshop your way through the web design process. So far, we've defined our objectives, we've got to understand our audience, and even set our information architecture. But you know what? By far the biggest challenge still lies ahead: getting design sign-off. We all know what a nightmare it could be getting a client to approve a design. That moment, when we reveal the design, and wait with baited breath, to see what the client has to say about it. But what if it didn't need to be like that. What if there was no big reveal and what if the client didn't need to sit in judgement of the quality of your work. What if it was as much their design as it was yours. They would certainly be considerably less likely to reject a design that they had a hand in creating. Of course the thought of involving the client in the design process can sound terrifying, especially if there are multiple stakeholders involved. After all, that's sounds a heck of a lot like design by committee, doesn't it. That's where running a workshop can help. A design workshop is not like design by committee. In a design workshop you get to be in control and you could avoid getting too deeply involved in the specifics of the design. Instead you can use the workshop to establish a general direction, educate stakeholders about best practice, and most importantly make them feel engaged with the process. Probably the most contentious area of design is aesthetics. Color, styling, typography, and imagery, tend to elicit strong responses among many people. So instead of presenting a design that people may hate, let's try using some workshop exercises to better understand what they would actually like and to educate them about what is good practice. Of course, what we must avoid doing is the client designing the website for us. Not only will this lead to poor design, it will also, no doubt, damage the relationship between you and your client. So, instead, we're gonna take a slightly more circumspect approach to the problem. We can begin by asking the entire group a really simple question. If your organization was a famous person, who would it be? You'll be amazed at how such a simple question can elicit such an interesting and lively debate. Encourage them to be aspirational in their answer. In other words, get them to describe how they would like their organization to appear to the outside world. But don't allow them to select a person that's unrealistic. For example, band famous people such as Gandhi, or Martin Luther King or Mother Teresa. I'm sorry, but their is no company that's like those kinds of people. As various stakeholders suggest famous people encourage them to explain why they feel that person is appropriate. As they talk, they'll mention a series of adjectives describing that person. Make a note of these on a whiteboard or a flip chart, along with the name of the person. By the end of the exercise you'll have a person that represents your organizations' brand and a collection of words that describe the company and what it's like. This will be invaluable for the design process because it's something tangible you can build the design around. More importantly, you can refer back to this person when justifying your design later on. When they see that the design has been able to incorporate some of their thinking from this exercise, some of their thinking about a famous person they're gonna feel a much greater sense of ownership over the design and so much less likely to reject it. The downside of this exercise is it's not as tangible as it could be. It's hard to understand brand identity when you're just working with a few words and a person. And also, it can be quite hard for stakeholders to express their design desires particularly well through that exercise. Fortunately, the next exercise allows them to do exactly that. We obviously want to avoid the client designing a website in the workshop, but what about getting them to design something else instead? Take the stakeholders and split them down into a series of small groups. Ask each group to design a reception area for the company. The idea here is to create a place that best communicates the personality and ethos of your organization. Somewhere that will impress new clients and present the organization in the best light. Encourage them to be as specific as possible about the content of the reception area. In fact, it may be worth giving them a handout listing specific things that they should consider. They should be thinking about things like the size of the room, what appears on the walls, what signage exists, what furniture they would choose, and what magazines or other reading material would be available. Also, ask them about what music might be playing, who would they have in the reception area, and would they have any refreshments or things like that? Get them to paint as detailed a picture as they possibly can. You'd be amazed at the kind of inspiration this will provide for you when designing a website. You'll get real insights into how they perceive their organization as well as the kind of design style they're warmed to. You'll find the music words like minimalistic, classical, rich, or contemporary. They'll talk about textures and colors and imagery. These are all the kinds of things that you can feed into your design but still leaves you in control of the process. Stakeholders will look at the final design and they'll see how this exercise has influenced it. That again gives them that sense of ownership over the final result. But to cement this sense of ownership there's one more exercise I want you to carry out. One that will draw upon the reception area exercise and the famous person one. We're going to get the stakeholders to produce some initial moodboards. Both of our previous exercises left you with a series of adjectives to describe the company. Encourage the group to discuss this list of words and refine it down into the four most descriptive ones. Depending on the time that you have available this could be either a group discussion or a simple voting exercise, whatever works for you. Once you've got your four words, split the stake holders down into four groups and give each groups one of the words. Now ask each of the groups to produce a mood board for that word. Ask them to find examples of color, imagery, typography, and other websites that they feel represent that word well. They can add these to a single page, similar to what you'd find in a scrap book. If they haven't encountered mood boards before, then you might want to show one or two examples to give them an idea of what you're trying to achieve. I find it's easiest to ask them to create this mood board in something like PowerPoint or Word, because these are applications they're familiar with. Don't make it too complicated. To help them complete the exercise, I tend to give them a series of different websites they can refer to. I suggest Google Fonts as a place to find typography and Google Images as a place to find imagery. And then, Adobe Color for selecting their color palette. Finally, I'll point them to a site like Template Monster, where they can see a whole range of different web designs that they can refer to. The group can now copy and paste content from these various locations into their mood board. Once done, get the group back together and ask each group to present their ideas. You can now take those ideas away along with the reception exercise and the famous person and use that to inspire your design work. The amount of material that you've given is enough for you to kind of pick and choose between different elements and drop elements that you don't feel are very appropriate. But at the same time there will be enough good stuff in there that you can refer back to when talking to the client about how that has helped shape your design. Again giving them the sense of ownership. And that's really the key lesson from this video. When it comes to getting approval for your design, it's all about giving the client a sense of ownership. But, in addition, it's also about involving them and allowing them to produce a design that's ultimately more appropriate for their organization. But involving the client in the aesthetics is really only half of the design process. We need to also address structure, hierarchy, and content. And that's what we're gonna be covering in our next lesson as we look up work shopping with wire frames. But until then thanks for watching.

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