During my studies (I’m actually an environmental engineer 🌱), I always struggled with giving talks in front of others. Just the idea of standing up in front of 30, 50 or 100 people and talking about my work and findings made me nervous. But why? Mostly the fear of saying the wrong thing and being exposed held me back then. Hello imposter.
But in my work as a UX designer, I can’t avoid sharing and discussing my work with others. In the beginning, this also made me nervous and to some extent it still does today. But something important has changed in contrast to my days as a student: I no longer sit alone for weeks over a project and when it’s done, I present it. Instead, I work in an iterative process in which regular exchange and open discussions are simply part of the game and I learned and experienced that the others don’t know it better or are as perfect as I would like to be. They also don’t know the solution but together we can find a way. That’s how I’ve found a system for sharing my designs with my team and getting feedback on a regular basis – I call this UX showcases!
🎪 What is a UX showcase?
A UX showcase is a recurring – but not regular – event where you present your work as a UX designer to get feedback and discuss it with others – designers, your team, stakeholders or even users. Through these discussions you get feedback on your design work and can clarify open questions in a direct exchange. How “direct” this has to be we can discuss later. To make this a success, I have summarized a few important things that I have learned from my previous UX showcases.
🎡 Why to showcase your UX work?
It does take some discipline to conduct UX showcases, but there are good reasons to do so:
- Create awareness and show how UX will improve the product.
- By justifying design decisions, you share your knowledge with the team and at the same time the awareness for good user experience is strengthened.
- You have a the chance for exchanging ideas and see if your work still points in the right direction and if you’re considering all user needs.
- By preparing for a UX showcase, you’ll give yourself another in-depth thought and review of your work. Often you will already answer some of your own open questions or at least formulate a thesis.
📹 Live vs. async showcases
Depending on what you prefer or what makes more sense in your case, you can conduct a UX showcase live or asynchronously. Some love the direct exchange and discussions that can arise during or after a presentation. However, a live UX showcase always requires a lot of time. All (required) participants must be able to attend at the same time, which makes scheduling very tedious depending on the number of invitees. In addition, it is often very difficult to capture all the details of a discussion, sometimes important points get lost or are not noted exactly how the person actually meant it.
After a few live showcases, I started to conduct my showcases asynchronously. I recorded my showcase as a video and shared it with my team afterwards. On the one hand, I avoid scheduling, I don’t force anyone into a meeting and everyone has the chance to watch the showcase exactly when they have the capacity and the mindset for it. Distributed teams working in different time zones are especially grateful for this. Another advantage of asynchronous showcases is that everyone can reflect on their feedback for as long as they would like, jump forward or backward in the video, review all the details in depth and then give feedback, ask questions or answer those.
👋 How to showcase UX design?
No matter if you hold a live UX showcase or a asynchronous one, the preparation will stay the same. You don’t need to tell a huge story or prepare a perfect PowerPoint presentation for a UX showcase. The point is to present your work in progress – not a perfect solution. This is important, keep it in mind! Show what the challenges are and how you will solve them through design. If you haven’t found a solution until now or are even struggling with having a good idea, tell this in the showcase and ask for ideas and help. If you’ve done showcases before, it’s also helpful to summarize the results and takeaways of the last one regarding this topic and pick up where you left off for the current showcase.
Also, think about any open questions you have that you would like to have answered by the UX showcase. I sometimes run showcases in a WIP FigJam file that captures the key considerations and designs. I share the link to this file after I shared my showcase so my team mates can leave comments or open questions directly on the file and I can review them later. If you share specific questions, add some answering space, e. g. colored shapes with the question on top and place for leaving comments below.
If you do a live UX showcase you also can think of sending out an agenda before the showcase and, for example, already share the open questions in it so that the participants can think about them, or whether you share everything during the showcase. If you have very little time for a live showcse, it is a good idea to include the questions already in the invitation. See the advantage of working asynchronously?
Invite the right people
Who should participate in the UX showcase? It varies depending on the project and the state of your work. Do you have a lot of questions about user feedback and behavior? Then turn mainly to UX researchers, people from Sales and the Customer Success team. If it’s more about complicated solutions that might be strategically and technically challenging, then definitely invite the responsible Development and Product team. Members of the management team can also be important participants.However, I don’t exclude the others and organize my UX showcases as open meetings in which people can also participate who are not explicitly on my participant “wish list”.
As mentioned before, I often use FigJam as the basis for my UX showcases and the subsequent discussion or as a catch-all for comments and questions. When I record a video, I either use the built-in functionality on the MacBook (Shift + Command + 5) or I rely on Loom to record short videos. But there are countless alternatives and many project management tools such as ClickUp now have built-in functionality to record screen captures including sound. So technically, all doors are open to you. It’s best to find out for yourself which software suits you best, or which options are already available in your work setup.
🔢 Steps of your UX showcase
The following steps are the same, no matter if you perform a showcase live or asynchronously. What should be included is the following:
- Review — Give a brief review of the takeaways from the last showcase.
- Walkthrough —Jump into today’s topic and give a walkthrough of the current state of the design.
- Decisions — Emphasize what changes you made based on the last feedback, or what suggestions didn’t make it. Give solid reasons for your decisions.
- Questions —Clarify what open questions you have that you need feedback or input on. It’s best to visualize these questions for the showcase.
- Round table (only in live showcases) —Open the round table for input and questions from the participants. Set a fixed time frame for this to respect everyone’s time.
- After show —After the live showcase or after you’ve shared the video of your showcase, give everyone access to the whiteboard file (like FigJam or Miro) and allow them to leave further comments, e.g. with post-its, and answer open questions.
🎟️ Let the show begin
Conducting UX showcases sounds time-consuming and a bit intimidating at first. But you’ll find that the more you discuss the current WIP with your team, the easier they will become and you can benefit tremendously. If you’ve read this far, thank you for your interest and I hope you’ve learned something new. Because that’s exactly why I’m writing this newsletter: I want to share my experiences so that others can benefit from them. 🚀