How to keep your scope under control while doing interactive design

Everyone loves interactive design sessions when building an intranet or any web site for that matter.

What can be more fun than bunch of co-workers taking, practically a half-day, off regular routine trying to build something new. The possibilities seem endless and so is fear in the eyes of project managers. We all know what we're afraid of ... this ->

This is a actually a foam core board to which we attached pretty much every feature we had available on the menu. This is something we hope your intranet doesn't look like and every time I run a workshop i do also hope that's not what will end up on a customer's site.

So how do you help your workshop participants with picking less items on the menu and thus keep the scope in check?

Many workshops start with a blank sheet of paper but then very quickly it gets to this question: "well, how difficult is this?" or "can we swap this for that?".

My favorite method is to estimate each feature way in advance before coming to the workshop. This doesn't have to be anything complicated, just a standard Small/Medium/Largeis adequate to facilitate the discussion.

In here you can see I've color coded the back side of the component so I know how "heavy" it is. Another thing you can do if you get a lot of those "how difficult is this?" questions is to tell you participants about the code on each component so they are aware whether they can trade one component for another.

It sounds like a game, but it works - people like to be in the know and feel engaged. Plus it's better than you going to developers each time you finish a workshop just to find out whether you're within you budget.

In some cases you may not have all of the components available because your workshop participants come up with features or integrations you haven't thought of. That's ok, you can an empty sticky note to briefly describe the component and assess it's complexity without rush later.

Also, chances are your participants will take one of your existing components and change some functionality in it. In the example here on the right I have color coded additive changes (where new functionality is added to existing feature) versus when the feature I have estimated has been simplified. This also gives quick view of how your wireframe is progressing in terms of complexity.

This simple enough approach will get you results and your workshop participants will feel like they have not only designed the system but also know the complexity of the build. Try it next time!