How to Run a Successful Discovery Workshop

Christian Bergara

August 23, 2023

Why do we do it?

Building an app is easy when you have a highly skilled cross-functional development team. Knowing what to make, however, is the secret sauce to an app development journey. At Conjure, we measure our success by our clients’ success, which is why we always start with a tried and tested, refined discovery session before building any new application.

This app discovery workshop allows us to gather valuable insights, define clear objectives, and ensure that the app we develop aligns perfectly with our client’s needs and goals. Here’s a cheat sheet on how to run a successful app discovery workshop.

Day 1

Step 1: Prepare all the admin

To kick things off, let’s take care of the administrative aspects of the workshop. First, choose 4–6 participants, all of whom should be key stakeholders in the project. Also, having a UX expert present is crucial for making informed decisions. Next, organise the workshops over two days. The first day can be conducted remotely, but we highly recommend an in-person setting for the second day.

Finally, let’s prepare all the necessary materials. For online sessions, we’ll make use of the versatile Miro board, while the in-person session will require voting stickers, pens, highlighters, A4 and A3 papers, post-its of various sizes, and trusty blu-tac.

Step 2: Always start with an icebreaker

Let’s break the ice and create a warm and collaborative atmosphere right from the start. A fun icebreaker activity sets the tone for a productive and enjoyable session.

Any icebreaker activity you know can work here (one of our favourites is asking “what apps could you not live without?”), but the idea is to give people early input into the session in order to make them feel comfortable and listened to.

Step 3: Personas, Pains, Gains, and Tasks

Now, it’s time to delve into the world of your target audience. Through an engaging discussion, we’ll explore personas, identifying their pain points, desired gains, and specific tasks related to the app.

By truly understanding the users’ needs and challenges, we can design solutions that address them effectively.

Step 4: Coffee break

Everyone deserves a break from time to time! Let’s take a moment to recharge and enjoy a cup of coffee. It’s an excellent opportunity for networking and informal conversations, fostering a friendly and collaborative environment.

Step 5: Define the outcome

Let’s take a moment to envision the future. We’ll work together to define the desired outcome of the app; where we want to be in three years’ time. This exercise helps set clear goals and objectives that the app should achieve, guiding our development process.

Top tip: ask the group to write the desired outcome in the format ‘in three years’ time…’ and [outcome] to tease out long-term objectives instead of specific features.

Step 6: Map Actors to Goals

In this step, we’ll identify the key factors involved in the app’s ecosystem and align them with the defined goals. Understanding the roles and perspectives of different stakeholders will contribute to the development of a comprehensive and user-centred app.

Start by defining who the ‘actors’ are, then map how they get to the desired action or goal when using your solution. The steps must answer the following questions: ‘How will they discover the app’, ‘Learn how to use it’ and finally ‘How will they use the tool’.

Step 7: Lightning demos

Let’s draw inspiration from each other! Participants will have the chance to share and present any existing apps or solutions that inspire them. These lightning demos spark creativity and provide valuable insights for designing our app, creating a vibrant and collaborative atmosphere.

Voting is a crucial part of this activity, as it creates a heatmap of great ideas and it starts to align the team on possible solutions.

Step 8: Crazy 8s

Get ready for a burst of creativity! Participants will individually generate as many ideas as possible within a short time frame. This rapid ideation exercise encourages diverse thinking and allows us to explore a wide range of innovative concepts together.

Ask everybody to choose a specific idea and you will give them 8 opportunities to iterate on it. Use a stopwatch and give everybody 1 minute for each iteration. This will seem intense but it is so much fun and it really brings out some creative screens for your app.

Step 9: Wrap-up morning session 1

Before we break for the day, let’s summarise the key points discussed and ensure everyone is on the same page. This wrap-up sets the stage for the exciting activities planned for the next day, keeping the positive momentum going.

Day 2

Step 1: Always start with an icebreaker

Good morning! Let’s kick off the second day with another fun icebreaker activity to energise and bring out the creative spirit within all of us.

Step 2: Recap Day 1

Let’s refresh our memories and recap the valuable discussions, decisions, and outcomes from the previous day. This recap ensures that we’re all aligned and ready to continue the workshop seamlessly. Print out the materials from the previous day to help your participants remember all the good ideas.

Step 3: Solution Sketch

Now, it’s time to turn our ideas into visual concepts. Start by asking your participants to take out their crazy 8 drawings. Ask everyone to choose their favourite iteration. From there, we will build different complete solutions.

Before proceeding, we need a bit of prep work for this activity. You will need 3x A3 papers stuck together to form a tall canvas. This is what participants will use to draw a solution.

With the chosen idea from the crazy 8, ask each participant to draw the same idea in the middle of their A3 canvas. Then ask the participants to draw the screens that will be before and after that idea. This will then build out the main screens to their proposed solution. Ask the participants to add as many descriptions as they can to explain what the components of the solution are meant to do.

Finally, add a fancy title at the top of the canvas. Top tip: this could be intimidating to the workshop team, so what we normally do is prepare an example of a solution beforehand to give the team an idea of what to produce. This is a fun activity that will last around an hour.

Step 4: Break

Take a moment to relax, stretch, and recharge. This break allows us to reflect on the progress made and gather our thoughts for the upcoming session.

Step 5: Gallery review

It’s time to showcase our solution sketches to the entire workshop. Ask everyone to review all the solutions sketches, and give everyone enough time to read through the notes and descriptions. After everyone’s had a chance to review the solutions, give each participant a few votes to stick right next to ideas that they like on the board.

Follow this up by then asking the author of the idea to describe the solutions. We ask people to vote before getting the participants to describe their solutions. This is to remove the bias towards a specific person. Afterwards, give them a few more votes to stick to the solution sketches.

Step 6: Solution voting

It’s time to choose a solution! Give everyone 1 vote and your decider 2 votes. The decider will be the last one to vote. Ask the participants to review the heatmap and all the solutions again and choose the solution that they would like to proceed with.

Once all the participants have voted, ask the decider to do the same (taking into account how the rooms have voted). The decider’s second vote can be used to select a specific idea from another solution that could be incorporated into the selected solution.

Well done! At this point, you should have alignment on a solution that can be used as a starting point for your prototype.

Step 7: Storyboarding

Let’s bring our chosen solution to life through storyboarding. This visual representation of the app’s flow and user experience allows us to delve deeper into its functionality. Storyboarding lays a solid foundation for the subsequent stages of development.

To do this, line-up 8 post-its and number them 1 to 8. Ask the author of the chosen solution to describe the first step that will happen and write in on another post-it and place it under step 1. Now do the same under the post-it label 8 and write down the final step that happens with the chosen solution.

Now ask the participants to each write down the steps that they think should happen from 2 to 7 to complete the storyboard. Give everyone a few minutes to think this through and write down their interpretation of the steps on post-its. When ready, ask each participant to come up and describe their steps and line it across the board.

When everyone has finished explaining their storyboard, ask everyone to choose one entire row that they feel captures the best storyboard for your app. Ask the decider to vote last again and give them an extra vote where they can choose an extra step from another row.

By following these friendly steps and conducting a well-structured discovery workshop, we can gather valuable insights, define clear objectives, and embark on a successful journey together that provides your business with real value.

This workshop template can also be used for the ideation phase of any project, be it app development, design-focused, or anything else. Just be sure to tailor the steps to suit the project you’re working on.

At Conjure, we’re committed to delivering exceptional apps that meet our client’s needs and drive their success. Let’s make your app dreams a reality!