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Building Faster: Workshop-Based Experience Design

It’s safe to say everyone agrees that the ideal approach to experience design is to start by investigating your users, gaining insight into their behaviors and motivations. From there, you move into detailed design of all aspects of your system. But what happens when this sort of user research and design approach isn’t practical, because of budget, timeline, or other concerns?

To address these cases, we’ve developed a leaner, more iterative design approach – EXcelerator ®. This is a  workshop-based approach to experience design. Ideal for simpler, more basic system designs, this highly collaborative methodology can be used to tackle Intranets, dashboards, and basic visualizations. EXcelerator consists of a focused set of activities meant to quickly drive towards an initial design that can be iterated and updated during technical development. It can be executed in at little as 2-4 weeks through a series of intense workshops and exercises.

Workshop-Based Experience Design is a process based on a rapid brainstorming design pioneered by Google Ventures and described in the book entitled SPRINT, by Jake Knapp. Let’s now look at how it has shaped up at Maven Wave.

Intranet Redesign

As mentioned previously, Intranets are a great opportunity to utilize the Workshop-based Experience Design approach. Employee engagement is becoming more and more crucial for retaining talent as employees expect to have similar experiences at work as the do with the tools and technology they use in their daily life. Intranets, however, usually get thrown on the backburner due to more pressing initiatives. They are a classic case of requiring something valuable, produced quickly, and with minimal time investment.

There are two core components to any good intranet: valuable content and top-quality design. In order to maintain a tight timeline, we work these two threads in parallel. As we’ll see, they are closely related and inform one another. So how does a workshop-based approach to Experience Design tackle an Intranet redesign?


The key to this process is having a core team that is on the same page from the outset. This group consists of a small Maven Wave team partnering with key client stakeholders. Together, we run through a workshop that sets the project goal(s) and supporting objectives. Drawing from our experience, we help focus the conversation around primary Intranet pillars that cover primary requirements and concerns, such as supporting findable and accurate content.

Content Audit

Employees go to an Intranet for content that helps them with their work,so it is crucial to provide valuable content on the platform We begin the audit by taking stock of your current content. What is on the Intranet right now? What other communications are sent to employees? What is the most asked for or searched for information? The audit goes beyond a mere inventory –  it points the way forward to providing valuable, engaging content that employees will want to come back for. At Maven Wave, we prepare this audit off-line, syncing with the rest of the core team to layer on additional insights as needed.

Experience Mapping

Experience mapping is the second workshop of our process, and it can be done as an extension of the kickoff. The core team sits together and whiteboards the typical user types, and their typical Intranet usage. The aim is to distill the activities an employee (“actor” or “user”) does to achieve their common tasks. These activity flows form the foundation of the new Intranet. They inform its structure, design, and content.

Validation Checkpoint

Before continuing on with the design process, it’s time to make sure the steps taken so far are heading in the right direction. Reaching outside of the core team, we present the experience maps to key stakeholders, including representatives of the user types to ensure we’re covering the right actions and common tasks. This is also an opportunity to add more color to the content audit, identifying and confirming important content to bring forward and the content that should be left behind.

Functional Building Blocks

With the validated experience maps, the team is now able to identify the major pieces/areas of functionality needed for the Intranet. They will account for all the primary user activities, however you will likely find that several activities across multiple user types can be solutioned with a single piece of functionality; for example, adding personal skillsets to an employee directory now helps it meet the needs of both finding colleague contact information and finding colleagues with specific skills needed for a piece of work. The idea here is to achieve maximal coverage with minimal complexity, helping the finished product meet user needs that much more elegantly.


The core team is now ready to sketch. In this workshop, each functional building block is tackled and iterated on with great speed. There is time for private sketching iterations, followed by solution sharing. Depending on how many building blocks you have, each team member may sketch all of them, or only a subset. The objective here isn’t to detail out full page designs, but rather to imagine what each piece of functionality might look like. It gives the Maven Wave members of the team a deeper understanding about how you would like your employees to engage the new Intranet, which we use to inform the Design step below.

Information Architecture

The Maven Wave team now takes the collected information — content audit, experience maps, building blocks — and creates a high-level information architecture for the new Intranet. This provides primary locations for the future content, yet is flexible enough to adapt to downstream decisions. The new Information Architecture (IA) is reviewed with the core team, and edited as needed in order to properly ground the next step.


It is finally time to start giving concrete shape to the Intranet. Maven Wave creates a set of Intranet page templates based on the Information Architecture and the core team sketches. We distill an interaction paradigm and navigation pattern to provide a user-centric and consistent experience for the new Intranet. The template set created in this step is designed to handle the bulk of the Intranet content, however there will always be unique designs. We design these one-offs during development, as they are encountered, and using the established interaction language.

Content Mapping

This step takes the content audit and pivots it to be forward-looking. The mapping, which is essentially a light content strategy, focuses exclusively on content living in the new Intranet. It identifies where content lives in the new Information Architecture (IA), and what roles have access if there is permissioning. The mapping also defines content ownership and can even include guidelines about how to keep content fresh, how to drive employee posts, etc. Content Mapping can be done in parallel with the previous Design step.


Now comes the final step, actually building your new intranet. While intranets can be built on any tech stack, at Maven Wave our preferred platform is LumApps. This platform provides great flexibility and control, while also allowing us to use modularized components. As an added bonus, Lumapps is fully integrated into G-Suite, which enables further collaboration across the platform.

Designing and building a new intranet may seem like a tedious process; however,with each step being as lean and light as possible, it can actually move very fast! Each activity is designed to quickly tackle bit-sized increments, and to facilitate quick decision making by maximizing the opportunities for agreement among the core team members. Overall, it is a tested process for designing appealing solutions in a fun and engaging way!

For more information on redesigning your Intranet, contact us here.

About the Author

Adam Matthews
Adam Matthews is a User Experience Architect at Maven Wave with over nine years of experience. As a member of the User Experience and Design team, Adam designs and delivers user-centered digital properties and strategies. Adam has spent most of his career at agencies and consultancies, notably Rosetta Marketing and Isobar, and also has product experience in an agile environment. His experience is also built on a strong foundation, receiving a B.Sc. in Cognitive Systems (University of British Columbia) and a Masters of Human-Computer Interaction (Carnegie Mellon University).
December 19th, 2017

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