Brainstorming

Brainstorming for UI/UX design and development can be defined as generating as many ideas as possible in a very short time frame to encourage creative thinking. Brainstorming can be done alone or as part of a group and is generally completed in the early stages of the project development lifecycle.
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    Brainstorming Session

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    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?

    UI/UX Brainstorming is a popular tool in the user experience designers kitbag. You would most often find yourself using it…
    • 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

    UI/UX Rulebook

    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:

    1. What is the problem – Work out what the problem is you need to Brainstorm.
      Do this PRIOR TO THE SESSION

       

    2. Be targeted AND simple – Establish the context and key terms to be specific so everyone is on the same page.
    3. Set a facilitator – This person is to keep things focussed. The key is to ensure they remain unbiased.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.

    UI/UX Benefits

    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. 

    UI/UX Costs

    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. 

    PRO TIPs

    • 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

    1. Empathize – Understanding your problem from an empathic point of view.
    2. Define Your Problem – Gather and analyze your data – Ask questions, etc.
    3. Ideate – Start generating ideas. * Brainstorming would happen here.
    4. Prototype – Rapidly build multiple versions to share with a small group.
    5. 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…

    UI/UX Templates

    Download Templates From Our UX Club

    A great way to get started in Brainstorming is to use one of our UI/UX Templates. Members of our UX Club can simply pick any UI/UX template they need and download them.

    A great starting point here would be download our SWOT analysis template as part of your UX Research before moving on to the Brainstorming Box 8x and Brainstorming Box 2x for some ideation work.

    Beginners & Students

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the main purpose of Brainstorming?

    The main purpose of Brainstorming is to solve difficult targeted problems either alone or as part of a group setting. Applying various Brainstorming methods and remaining focused will allow participants to generate fast amounts of fresh ideas in a short period of time to help unlock the predefined challenge statement.

     

    What are the various methods of Brainstorming?

    Brain Netting – Brainstorming via the Internet. This involves using an online SaaS-based technology where users can participate in private yet collaborate publicly. This is a great option for remote and global teams.

    Brain Writing (Slip Writing) – This technique is where each person anonymously writes their ideas. After collection, the ideas can be presented to management or shared with others who can critique them.

    Collaborative Brain Writing – The problem statement or question is written on a large piece of paper and posted in a public place. Here it is left for a week with requests for open collaboration. Ideas are collated for team or group discussion.

    Charette – This technique breaks up the team into groups and the problem statement into smaller tasks with each team discussing elements of the problem for smaller set periods of time. Once a time period is completed the ideas are passed between each group for the next group to build upon. By the end of the session, each idea has been compounded 5 or 6 times.

    Driver’s Analysis – Work with your stakeholders or team to uncover the ‘driver’ behind your problem statement. For example: “What is driving our cart abandonment in Q4?” Understanding drivers will help you unlock solutions to problems.

    Five Why’s – An effective technique for thought process generation is to read out or refer to the problem statement and ask “Why is this happening?” — once some answers are completed ask “Why does this happen?” — continue Five Times to unlock the cause of the issue.

    Figure Storming – Picking a character from history (or fiction) that is known to the group you work out how they would have solved the problem statement. For example: what would “Churchill have done in this situation?

    Gap Filling – Where are you now? Where would you like to get to? How do you fill the gap in your goal – this is your new problem statement. Collect all the answers and develop your action plan.

    Mind Mapping – Mind mapping is a technique to visually layer relationships between ideas. You begin by writing out your problem statement or end goal and continue to add layers to the mind map. The idea is to uncover visual patterns between the data.

    Rapid Ideation – This technique is surprisingly simple. The group is asked to write down as many ideas as fast as they can in an allotted timeframe. At the end of the time period, the ideas can be shared among the group or collected for later filtering.

    Reverse Brainstorming – This technique is designed to ask stakeholders to come up with problems rather than solutions. Once you have your problem statement you ask “How can we cause this?”. Creating problems can be a great way to solve others.

    Role Play Brainstorming – The role play technique allows your team to act out being the client. Changing the thought perspective and the way people think will surprisingly produce some amazing insights.

    Starbursting – A star with six points is placed on the board or wall with the problem statement in the middle. At each point is the question: Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, How? Questions are generated based on each point.

    Quiet Brainstorming – Due to Covid and time other time pressures regulation sessions are getting harder to organize. Quiet Brainstorms allow participants to complete the session in their own time and then the facilitator collates the answers. It’s still important to set deadlines and cut-off times.

     

    What are the main advantages of brainstorming?

    One of the biggest advantages you will get with Brainstorming is the freedom it will allow employees and team members to think creatively and without judgment and criticism.

    Brainstorming allows people to think more freely, without fear of judgment. Brainstorming encourages open and ongoing collaboration to solve problems and generate innovative ideas.

    Brainstorming helps teams generate a large number of ideas quickly, which can be refined and merged to create the ideal solution.

     

    What are your favorite brainstorming tools?

    There are many ways to do Brainstorming. We like to keep things fairly simple here and depending on what stage we are at – our process as described above begins with Pen and Paper and one of our dedicated Brainstorming UX Templates fit for purpose.

    For example, if we are looking to Brainstorm a new homepage idea we might grab our Brainstorming Box 8x and push out a bunch of ideas quickly before refining our best 2 ideas out on the Brainstorming Box 2x template.

     

    Why is brainstorming important in business?

    By now it’s fairly obvious that Brainstorming is good for business. Apart from the obvious generation of ideation and innovation benefits – conducting these sessions can also help foster company spirit in a number of ways for example:

    • Gather viewpoints from within the business that might otherwise remain unknown
    • Encourage and foster cross-collaboration between teams and departments that might not necessarily interact
    • Encourage employees to give thought to business goals and future product
    • Help employees feel vested in products and services
    • Help give employees a voice within the organization
    • Build better team relationships

     

     

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