~ By Taruna Goel
A design walkthrough is a quality practice that allows designers to obtain an early validation of design decisions related to the development and treatment of content, design of the graphical user interface, and the elements of product functionality. Design walkthroughs provide designers with a way to identify and assess early on whether the proposed design meets the requirements and addresses the project's goal.
For a design walkthrough to be effective, it needs to include specific components. The following guidelines highlight these key components. Use these guidelines to plan, conduct, and participate in design walkthroughs and increase their effectiveness.
A design walkthrough should be scheduled when detailing the micro-level tasks of a project. Time and effort of every participant should be built into the project plan so that participants can schedule their personal work plans accordingly. The plan should include time for individual preparation, the design walkthrough (meeting), and the likely rework.
It is important to invite the right participants to a design walkthrough. The reviewers/experts should have the appropriate skills and knowledge to make the walkthrough meaningful for all. It is imperative that participants add quality and value to the product and not simply 'add to their learning.'
All participants in the design walkthrough should clearly understand their role and responsibilities so that they can consistently practice effective and efficient reviews.
Besides planning, all participants need to prepare for the design walkthrough. One cannot possibly find all high-impact mistakes in a work product that they have looked at only 10 minutes before the meeting. If all participants are adequately prepared as per their responsibilities, the design walkthrough is likely to be more effective.
A design walkthrough should follow a well-structured, documented process. This process should help define the key purpose of the walkthrough and should provide systematic practices and rules of conduct that can help participants collaborate with one another and add value to the review.
The design walkthrough should be used as a means to review and critique the product, not the person who created the design. Use the collective wisdom to improve the quality of the product, add value to the interactions, and encourage participants to submit their products for a design walkthrough.
A design walkthrough has only one purpose, to find defects. There may, however, be times when participants drift from the main purpose. A moderator needs to prevent this from happening and ensure that the walkthrough focuses on the defects or weaknesses rather than identifying fixes or resolutions.
In addition to these guidelines, there are a few best practices that can help you work towards effective design walkthroughs:
Design walkthroughs, if done correctly, provide immediate short-term benefits, like early defect detection and correction within the current project and offer important long-term returns. From a long-term perspective, design walkthroughs help designers identify their mistakes and learn from them, therefore moving towards continuous improvement. During the process, designers are also able to unravel the basic principles of design and the key mistakes that violate these principles. By participating in walkthroughs, reviewers are able to create a mental 'catalogue of mistakes' that are likely to happen and are therefore more equipped to detect these early in any product. By analysing the kind of defects made by designers, over time, reviewers can use this information to support root-cause analysis and participate in organisation-wide improvement initiatives.
Effective design walkthroughs are one of the most powerful quality tools that can be leveraged by designers to detect defects early and promote steps towards continuous improvement.
Taruna Goel is a Lead Analyst (Senior Learning Consultant and Trainer) currently working with the Enterprise Learning Solutions division of NIIT Ltd. She has ten years of experience in the field of learning and development and instructional design. Her experience is largely gathered from working with Fortune 500 organisations. As a Senior Learning Consultant, she has designed and developed comprehensive and specialised technical and non-technical training programmes (Web-based Training/Instructor-led Training/Blended Learning).
Taruna has led and participated in various phases of the development life cycle including pre-sales and proposals, solution design, analysis (audience, task, content, requirements), curriculum and course design, interface and functionality design, content acquisition and development, visualisation, review, testing, and quality assurance. She has been actively involved in designing, developing, and delivering division-wide trainings for new recruits and ongoing training for content authors and designers in the areas of instructional design and technical writing.
Taruna was awarded the Performance Excellence award for 2005-06 and Performance Excellence award for 2006-07 by Rajendra S Pawar, Chairman of NIIT.
© Copyright 2009, Taruna Goel. All rights reserved. Used with permission.