Founders of UX Series
History of UI/UX Brainstorming.
Wikipedia informs us that Brainstorming methods were first used associated with solving creative problems back in 1939 by Advertising executive Alex F. Osborn – one of the founders of BBDO, a worldwide advertising agency network.
Brainstorming was born out of sheer frustration of employees’ ability to come up with individual advertising campaign ideas so a move to session-based “brainstorming sessions” was made.
Obsorn detailed this in his 1948 book – “Your Creative Power” Still available on Amazon and a really great read for today’s User Experience designer and developer.
Practical User Experience
When is UI/UX Brainstorming commonly used?
- If you need to generate a large number of new ideas — quickly.
- If you are having trouble pinpointing the answer to a specific problem area
- If you are looking to broadly brushstroke design various potential outcomes
Are there any rules to consider when brainstorming for UI/UX?
When conducting any design method there are usually a few key rules to keep in mind or principles to follow. Important to remember with UI/UX that these things are never hard and fast.
You need to find what works for you, having said that, these rules have generally been established over time by established UX folk as a way of guiding you into achieving more consistent results via repeat outcomes.
When approaching your next Brainstorming session you may want to consider the following rules/guidelines.
- Never Criticise and Idea – Accept them all (No matter how bad they might seem at the time)
- Quantity over Quality – More ideas are better: every time!
- Stay Focussed! – It’s easy to de-rail so we don’t chat about ideas until after the session.
- On-Time! – Don’t be late and set time limits for the session (10-15mins is great.)
UI/UX How To Series
How do you actually do brainstorming?
One of the fundamental takeaways from Osborns learnings was that when leading Brainstorming sessions it is vital to provide the group with a clear problem statement prior to the session start.
Osborn found the statement needs to be targeted AND simple for best results and that Brainstorming wasn’t as effective when solving complex problems.
Understanding this… let’s take a step by step look at how to actually do brainstorming:
- What is the problem – Work out what the problem is you need to Brainstorm.
Do this PRIOR TO THE SESSION
- Be targeted AND simple – Establish the context and key terms to be specific so everyone is on the same page.
- Set a facilitator – This person is to keep things focussed. The key is to ensure they remain unbiased.
- Invite the right people – Include people impacted by the specific problem. Both subject experts and non-experts get a good mix of ideas eg. people from different areas and cross-sections of the business. You will usually want between 3 and 10 people for the session.
- Sent out the problem statement PRIOR to the session start – We also suggest taking the first 5-10 minutes of the session to re-explain the problem statement and any further context just to ensure everyone is really focussed and on the same page. Also, you wouldn’t be surprised how many people do not do the pre-work.
- Running the session – There are many techniques to complete the session but most UX’ers opt to.
– Distribute sticky notes.
– Participants write as many ideas as they can within the allotted timeframe.
– Facilitator collects all the ideas.
– Facilitator plots ALL the ideas onto a wall or whiteboard.
– As part of a collaborative team discussion – various ideas might be filtered/categorized.
– The group might be asked to place their top 3 or 5 ideas in order of preference. These would be investigated during a planning/strategy session.
- Wrap up the session – Next steps would be explained to the group and a summary of the session would be emailed to all participants post the activity.
Why do UI/UX designers love Brainstorming?
The main reason UI/UX designers and developers love brainstorming is that it is still one of the best techniques for fresh idea generation. Brainstorming really works! Every company needs innovation and new ideas this technique can be an absolute goldmine. In fact, sometimes the best ideas can be developed right from within your own pool of resources.
Another reason UI/UX designers and developers love it is that it is not limited in scope to a certain idea set. For example:
- Developing new website concepts
- Innovating new product types
- Finding ways to grow your business or audience
- Engaging customers or even internal employees
- Improving conversion around payment methods
- The list is endless…
Innovation and fresh ideas are the core foundations of helping your business or company or clients find solutions to unlock challenges — helping build and grow to the next level.
Is Brainstorming an expensive exercise?
Without delving into the relativity of cost and the ROI of idea generation being potentially priceless… the main cost associated with conducting group brainstorming sessions is time.
Time IS Money and when bringing together various stakeholders from multiple disciplines and departments you need to be efficient.
We recommend adhering to strict time limitations to sessions and sending out problem statement information prior to sessions.
If you don’t plan out your brainstorming sessions in advance and stick to a strict schedule and budget then Brainstorming can get expensive fast. Planning is essential as stakeholder time costs can blow out quickly.
- Plan Ahead – Plan your sessions in advance
- Schedule Sessions – Have a schedule and stick to it so costs can be allocated
- Send Materials Prior – Send Problem Statements in Advance
- Start on Time – Start the session on time: As long as you’ve got enough participants.
- Use a big clock or stopwatch – Stick to the time limits. We find golden ideas are often generated under pressure.
Based on experience our resident UX experts have found the best ideas are often generated when there is pressure on time. Keeping actual sessions to 10-15 minutes has been key.
The UI/UX Lifecycle
How does Brainstorming fit into the UI/UX lifecycle?
UX’ers love doing things as part of a framework, process, lifecycle, or way of thinking. If we look at the five stages in the ‘design thinking’ methodology when approach problems Brainstorming would take place as part of the thirds stage being the ideation phase.
The Design Thinking Methodology
- Empathize – Understanding your problem from an empathic point of view.
- Define Your Problem – Gather and analyze your data – Ask questions, etc.
- Ideate – Start generating ideas. * Brainstorming would happen here.
- Prototype – Rapidly build multiple versions to share with a small group.
- Test – Test the best solutions and features identified during the prototype phase.
This is an iterative process – results from testing are often used to redefine prototypes and generate new ideas etc…