Stakeholder Management: Participatory design

Early on in my career, I designed a home healthcare delivery application using participatory design. Particpatory Design Experience

Participatory design is a design process that manages the stakeholders by including them and target users. Research, analysis and design are done with the stakeholders and users. Sometimes this is referred to as co-design.

Participatory design included the key client roles in the design process. We would meet in a room with the subject matter experts for eight hours. We would do the business analysis and walk-through the workflows. Then we would explore what the subject matter expert did. We would take this information and begin to design the application.

The advantage of the work is that the user is in the room with you as you design.

The disadvantages that everything takes twice as long.


Copyright 2016 Frictionless Design LLC

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Always show more than one design

You spend days and weeks working on your latest brilliant idea. You have reviewed it with your colleagues and have tested it with users. You are now ready to show it to the key stakeholder.

You walk in his office and sit down. You chat a bit and then get down to business. You pull out your designs and start walking through. He asks a few questions and you answer well.

At some point the conversation turns. He starts saying how it is not what he expected. You point out that the users love it but he is not convinced. He has an idea in his mind that solves the problem in a better way but he is never able to verbalize this. He just manages to keep critiquing the design.

You leave frustrated.

What can you do to avoid this target practice?
1) Make sure you always bring multiple designs to a review.
2) Have the reviewer compare designs and identify what works and does not work. Avoid what he likes and does not like.
3) Involve him earlier in the process. Get his thoughts early on so you are not surprised by the questions.

A large part of design is about being an effective communicator. This requires gathering and reviewing information not only from your users but also stakeholders. As the process moves along continuous sharing and testing provides a mutually beneficial process of learning and ownership. Sharing multiple designs allows you to learn more about how people think. With all of this information in hand you can drive the stakeholders and organization to the best solution.


See my presentation on managing your stakeholders.

Empowering the HiPPO


Copyright 2016 Frictionless Design LLC

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Mmm Breadbrumbs


When you can see the whole path it is easy to know where you are. If you take a hike in the woods, the trail map lets you know where you are going and where you have come from.

You Are Here

When working on your computer or phone, it is impossible to see the whole application from one screen. Have you ever been online or in an application and felt confused- or lost- about where you are and where you want to go? You probably searched the screen for clues to help understand where you are in the scheme of things. One navigation technique that illustrates where you are and where you came from is a breadcrumb. Breadcrumb? Think Hansel and Gretel.


Defining Breadcrumbs

A breadcrumb is a device that illustrates each of the pages you have encountered before you have arrived at your current page or screen.

One way to think about this are using the pages in a book. Cover, copyright, table of contents, and chapter 1 are the first four things you encounter in the book. If you go in order and land on Chapter, 1 the breadcrumb will look like this:

Cover/ Copyright / Table of Contents / Chapter 1

Since the breadcrumb is made to help you while interacting with the computer, it can also be used to enhance navigation. To allow you to easily move back through the pages, you can navigate by using hyperlinks on the breadcrumb.

Cover/ Copyright / Table of Contents / Chapter 1

By clicking on the hyperlink Copyright, you will go directly to the Copyright page. This is very helpful when the breadcrumb is short. When the breadcrumb gets too long it becomes more difficult to use.

Can breadcrumbs go too far?

What […]


Guest post by Jacob Pullen.

Admithub is a startup company that makes software to help set up high school students with a university that matches their interests. To test out their newly made software they need students to help them improve and adjust what they do. What they do is ask questions and with the answers they come up with different universities that match that individual. Admithub users do not have to be any specific age, just as long as they have had some high school experience.


Their studies show that students were interested and took a long time when answering the questions on their website. They then made it possible for students to receive texts from a robot asking questions in a friendly way. Students were then compelled to send the survey because they could answer on their phones with short and easy answers, taking up little time.

The bot is a very cool feature and works very well for the most part. Many questions are very straightforward and ask about school, grades, extracurriculars and thoughts on colleges. When done with the survey it then links students to their website to check out college options. While operating from the website students are able save the colleges they like and skip over the ones they are uninterested in. It also shows all of the universities stats and how the students stats matchup. Admithub is a great and easy way for students to be matched up with universities they are currently working on adding new features to their robot.

My dad mentors at Techstars and talked with the guys at Admithub. […]

By |July 22nd, 2015|Companies|0 Comments

Tools: Suggestion Funnel

Ideas and suggestions are cheap. Everyone seems to have a suggestion for what you should do next. Considering these ideas require your time and effort. Of course, the last idea deliverer wants their suggestion on the top of the list.

What should you do? Do you allow the squeakiest, most energetic, loudest or highest paid person to influence the list?

Here is a tool to help you understand as well as push some of the work back on the idea deliverer. Require that the deliverer go back and draw out the idea. It does not have to be perfect and fancy, but it needs to be clearly thought out. To insure this, ask for not one but 3 drawings. Require drawings of 3 different solutions to the problem they are putting forth.

draw show

Why 3? Once they have drawn it 3 times, they will have worked through many issues with their ideas. This will make it easier for you to gather the information you need to move forward. This will also deter those that are not willing to put in the effort to explore their idea.

When you meet, start by restating the problem being solved and the persona it impacts. Have the idea deliverer lay out the 3 designs. In each drawing they will have tried to solve an aspect of the problem different ways. To get a better understanding of the thought process behind the ideas, ask them to compare the three different solutions. Ask about what works and what does not for each choice that is made. At this point, you should understand enough to ask probing questions, determine the merits of the idea, and be able to judge where it belongs on […]

By |July 13th, 2015|Tools|0 Comments

Tools: PowerPoint Click-through

I work with complicated applications. Most of the screens have many moving parts. Describing the interactions and the flows to product owners and customers can be challenging. I use Microsoft’s PowerPoint to create a modern-day flip book.

flip it

Remember back to English class and doodling an animation in the bottom corner of the novel you were supposed to be reading? On each page I would draw a little guy walking along or riding a bike, going over a jump, and crashing into a million pieces.

Now I create similar “animations” using PowerPoint slides as individual pages. Showing the state changes to multiple parts of the screen for each interaction allows a product owner or customer to see what is going to happen. Each slide is a picture of the screen. Every slide is static. However, by clicking the down arrow or up arrow the viewer can walk through the changes. No actual animation is used to transition slides or move objects on the slides. The motion comes from the small changes done to the screens when viewed in sequence.

Steps to create a click-through:

  • Create the base slide by copying or drawing your screen
  • Copy the slide and paste it after the first one
  • Alter the screen to show the first change (e.g. a hover over or click)
  • Create an arrow that is big and bright to act as the cursor and focal point
  • Now you can click the slides back and forth to see the transition
  • Do this multiple times for each change in the screen
  • Add enough slides to bring the user through the whole set of changes that may occur
  • A slide deck can end up with 50 to 100 slides depending on […]
By |June 25th, 2015|Tools|0 Comments



Thank Goodness for Rain

Thank Goodness for Rain

So glad it is June


Photos are from a couple of days in February 2015.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

Tools: How I Use Google Hangouts

I work with clients located all over the world. I use Google Hangouts to create a sense of connection you cannot get from a conference call. Google Hangouts is not a perfect substitute for face-to-face meetings. However, it helps provide the visual cues we need while communicating.


At the beginning of every meeting, each person joins and shows their video on the conference. This gives everyone a chance to see each other and connect socially. This mimics the beginning of an in-person meeting.

  • Once the meeting begins, everyone is asked to switch to their picture, by turning off their video, to reduce bandwidth issues.

Google HangOuts Turn Off Video

  • Google Hangouts will balance the screen to whomever is speaking. If you only want to focus on one person, click on their image in Google Hangouts and it will remain on that display.

Google HangOuts Selected-video

  • If there are bandwidth issues but you want to see each other, Google Hangouts has a bandwidth adjuster that looks like cell phone reception bars. This is located at the top of the screen when you hover over the Google Hangouts window. Click on the icon to see the dialog. Move the setting to the position one above the lowest.

Google HangOuts Bandwidth Adjuster

  • When someone wants to show something they are working on they can share the application or desktop. Hover over the icon with the green monitor and white arrow. Click on the icon and a dialog will show. Select the specific application or […]