As a user researcher I often feel that a more appropriate title would be chief decorator, because there is nothing we researchers like more than papering wall space with sticky notes and printouts relating to our projects.
A wall is a precious resource, particularly in open plan offices, and we often have to make sacrifices about what we have on show. While we’d like to display information about our users, the latest usability test findings, workshop outputs, sketches and design printouts - it’s rarely possible to squeeze it all into your allocated space.
I was very lucky in a recent project, however, to have a huge amount of wall to play with, as you can see in the photo. And while the way we used the wall constantly changed, I’d like to share with you a snapshot depicting one of the ways our team used the space to share information and collaborate, and then share my thoughts about why wall space is so important.
We split the wall into the following six sections (from left to right in the photo at the top of the page):
The arrangement of sticky notes on this section of the wall replicates the output from a research workshop between the team and users. This helps team members who didn’t attend the workshop to see the output, and allows us all to easily refer back to the suggestions made in the workshop to make sure we’re still on track. We replace the sticky notes each time we have a new workshop.
2) Research and design
Next up we have the main research and design whiteboard. This displays profiles of the different user groups for the project, iterations of the designs (from sketches to wireframes to high res designs) and top level research findings.
Having these on permanent show is a great way to keep them at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts, and it also provides a useful talking point for any visitors to the project area or random passerbys who show an interest.
This particular whiteboard is on wheels and has been trundled the length of the Home Office and into the lift on several occasions to provide a visual reference in meetings and workshops.
The poster wall includes Home Office-wide principles for how we should be creating government digital services, along with any other posters the team feels like displaying.
4) Existing insight from previous projects
The research wall includes outputs from other research projects that could be relevant to the team’s current project. In this instance, our current project involved the creation of an internal service for the Home Office, so on this wall we pulled in staff profiles from a previous project that looked at the way Home Office staff work (see the related blog post Discovering the way people work).
5) Service Standard
The Digital by Default Service Standard poster is very useful to keep all the service standards foremost in our minds while we develop our service.
6) Agile Board
The team’s Agile Task Board is the central hub for our project. It’s the main focus of communication for everyone, and we gather around it daily to discuss progress and update our tasks.
The contents of the board are duplicated digitally in JIRA, but in my opinion until we have digital displays the size of walls this kind of real life artefact is still an essential part of the project space.
So why is a wall space so important?
I’ve described one approach we’ve taken to using wall space, and hope this has given you some ideas, but I haven’t yet given my reasons as to why I think the use of wall space is so important, so to summarise, here they are:
- Your team can easily see the latest designs, research findings and project progress
- The information helps to create a shared understanding of exactly what you’re working on, who the users are, and what the users need
- People around the organisation can see what you’re up to and come and ask questions
- If individuals miss a meeting or workshop, they can still see the output
You never know when catching a glimpse of something on the wall might lead to a new idea or insight
- Staring at a blank wall all day is boring!
Do you have a different approach or thoughts on what we’re doing? We’re open to further improvements in how we approach digital transformation and would love to get your thoughts, inputs and experience in the Comments section below or via twitter