The Cat Flap

Picture this. There is a house in a Canberra suburb which is located directly across the road from a lake. In the back door of this house there is a cat flap — and what I have come to realise over…


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Running the sessions

A while ago I was given an exciting opportunity to redesign Just Eat’s consumer-facing app with the initial goal to present a vision piece to senior executives. The vision was set to be a bolder and fresher take on the then-existing app. My colleague and I created an end to end customer journey prototype with the goal to get buy-in from leadership, Product and Tech Managers. But we only had limited time to do this.

Working on fast-paced vision pieces is something I find very exciting and rewarding, but it can leave me wishing for a little more time to explore different routes. I wondered if there was a way for me to have some of the thinking and a bit of the exploration groundwork done beforehand, so when I needed to work on vision pieces I would be ahead of the game.

I spotted an opportunity to introduce a way of working where I would bring designers from across our organisation to work on various design themes through a series of recurring workshops. The output of these sessions could be concepts that will either feed into a vision piece or used as a strong foundation for bigger projects.

I chose to name it ‘Design Bonanza’ — the word bonanza sounds fun and I wanted to make sure that the sessions had a light and playful atmosphere for the participants. I also like the meaning of the word Bonanza.

The aim is to get a large number of design concepts out of the session,

For a bit of context at Just Eat, our organisation is split into pillars, with specific design teams in each; the Customer pillar looks at the product you order food with, Restaurant focuses on the relationship between Just Eat and the restaurants on our platform, the Courier pillar creates experiences for drivers, and the Operations pillar builds all our internal tooling.

I choose to make the sessions optional so the number of participants can flex, but in each session, we expect a mix of UX, UI and Product designers from across the business. Designers are asked to work in pairs, preferably a mix of discipline and pillars. Each session happens every eight weeks and the focus of the sessions alternate between a customer or restaurant problem.

The first part of the Bonanza is a 90-minute workshop where all attendees unpack the problem and later on ideate potential solutions. In the second part, the pairs work on their solution for three hours at their desks. We reconvene two days later to share the final concepts.

Example of unpacking the problem exercise, ‘Rethinking the Menu Experience’ Design Bonanza

Depending on the problem, different exercises are required. But the sessions usually run in this order:

1. Introducing the Problem

This part can be very quick, for instance, “Hello everyone, today we’ll be looking at dark mode”. The introduction is done, move on to the next step.

However, I have found that bringing an expert on the subject can be of great benefit. What has worked very well in a previous session was to bring a Product Owner and Business Analyst, not only were they able to share domain knowledge and existing pain points, but they became instantly more involved in the process — suddenly what was concept work can now become the beginning of a design solution.

2. Unpacking the problem

There are quite a few ways to do this — I choose to go with exercises I had done in previous workshops. Empathy mapping seems to work very well for more UX led problems, and as for UI themes competitor analysis or parallel worlds will get the room engaged.

3. Ideation

Example of crazy 8’s, ‘Gamifying rewards & loyalty Design Bonanza

A fairly straight forward step, crazy eights is a popular and efficient option to get lots of ideas in a short space of time. Depending on the problem you can skip the crazy eights and run a more focused version of it getting pairs to create storyboards. I find that having storyboards is good practice because the designers have something more concrete to take back to their desks and work on final concepts.

The bonanza gives designers the chance to work in a different area of the business, on a different product to their day to day role.

We have show & tell sessions where designers see the work from other products, but getting to spend some time on design solutions and ideation for problems in other pillars gives designers a deeper insight into other parts of the business — especially if you’re paired with someone who already has a good understanding of that area.

The outputs of past bonanza sessions have proven to be invaluable — in both demonstrating vision pieces for executive presentations, and also to kick-start early-stage projects by having concepts to base our user research on.

On a personal level, I have really enjoyed running these sessions, mostly because conducting a workshop is a soft skill I hadn’t had a chance to exercise much as a UI designer. It also helped me with my confidence in public speaking. It’s been a big learning curve for me, here are my main learnings:

An expert on the theme can help to bring insight and keep the designs a bit more grounded on what is technically possible. Even if this is for a vision piece, you want that vision to have the hope of seeing the light of day. The experts may or may not be designers so leave it open to them whether they would rather watch or participate with one of the pairs.

People are not forced to come to these sessions so keeping it fun is crucial. If it is a fun atmosphere, that makes it easier for people like me who are newbies at running workshops to do so.

Sometimes there can be such a thing as too much fun, and you get lost in discussions. Make sure you have set times for each activity, and sometimes you might have to stop some conversations and move onto the next step. Savage but necessary.

There are always buzz topics that will increase participation — these can either be market trends such as dark mode or gamification that will get designers excited and wanting to be involved, or newly announced business goals that these kinds of outputs will help kick start projects. Find the main focal point of that area and build your exercises around it.

I keep a spreadsheet with links to slides, design files and miro boards used in the bonanza, as well as who ran it and when it happened.

In a separate tab, I try to keep a healthy backlog for future sessions. This is where our designers can add ideas for the next themes.

So if you were to come to me and say “OK Bruno, I want to run a Bonanza, what do I need to know?”. Here is a short description:

Part 1 — Brief and Design (1h 30m)

Part 2 — Desk time (min 2h)

Part 3 — Playback

And that is it, obviously feel free to tweak the details to the needs of your team, like cadence, who is involved, mandatory or optional. The current format is what works best for Just Eat.

I hope you enjoy running a Design Bonanza for your teams.

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