Introduction to UX Design Workshop

Posted 12 March 2020 by Joshua Shum

This is 1 of 4 UX projects conducted during my time as the User Experience Librarian Intern at University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) Library.

As part of the University of Toronto's annual entrepreneurship week, I was invited to co-develop and co-instruct a workshop titledIntroduction to UX Design. Furthermore, as a fortunate coincidence, one of the final projects of a course I was enrolled in, was to facilitate an workshop using the design thinking methodology. As such, it only seemed natural to combine the two

Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our level of understanding.

However, I faced one large problem—my background is not in business or entrepreneurship. I needed to get to know my audience by gathering insights about their typical motivators, goals, and ideal learning outcomes—and quickly.


January—February 2020

While I was unable to directly canvas workshop participants beforehand, I did not want to presume that my assumptions about their motivations and learning styles would be correct.

In the months leading up to the workshop, I interviewed business and entrepreneurship librarians at York Universiy and the University of Toronto, asking them to share about their teaching experiences and to gather feedback on the structure and design challenge of my workshop.

Through a conversation with the Liaison Librarian for Entrepreneurship at UTSC, we identified that students had a tendency to jump straight to high-fidelity prototyping without doing any user or market research, leading to a high rate of failure and cost. As such, we crafted a design challenge focusing on the early stages of the design thinking process: Empathize, Define, and Ideate.

Along the theme of iterative feedback, I also participated in weekly pitch-and-catch sessions with colleagues where we would take turns offering and receiving feedback on our projects. I took this feedback and "prototyped" my workshops—returning the following week for another cycle of pitch-and-catch. This iterative process was essential in identifying potential issues and alternate instructional strategies that I had not initially considered.


March 12, 2020

The result was a one-hour workshop held on March 12, 2020 with 6 participants, with an incorporated participant design challenge to drive learning outcomes.

Workshop Slides
Click to view PDF slideshow (Pop-up Lightbox)


Redesign the electronic device purchasing experience.

As part of the workshop, we incorpoarted a 7-step, 30-minute design challenge focusing on the first three phases of design thinking (Empathize, Define, and Ideate) to engage our participants in active learning. These phases are designed to provide experience toward the following outcomes:

1. Empathize with the user, in order to gain a holistic understanding of the context of the situation.
2. Define the user needs based on evidence-based user-research.
3. Ideate user-centred potential solutions that address these needs.

While this design challenge (below) was initially designed for a physical presence, a digital version of this design challenge was created for an online audience, in light of COVID-19.

Step 1 | Empathize

Beginning with the Empathy phase of the design thinking model we asked participants to imagine the last time they needed to buy or replace an electronic device—a relevant scenario for an an audience of primarily undergraduate students. We also provided a user persona as a backup:

You are a 20 year-old student looking to get a new, affordable replacement for your phone, which just broke—how will you approach this process?

We asked participants to engage in simulated user research by interviewing one another to gather insights about user needs and motivations.

Step 2 | Empathize

In the next step, we asked participants to individually write down their insights gathered from user research on sticky notes.

Step 3 | Define

Following a Diverge-Converge model, we then asked participants to share and cluster their insights in teams of 4, in order to generate needs statements for fictiional personas to help them focus on evidence-based needs to address in the following ideation stage. Here's some of the ones the participants came up with:

1. Jessica needs a way to address accessability between apps so that they can maximize productivity.
2. Phoebe needs a way to get extended care/support/insurance so that they have phone protection coverage when needed.
3. Joe needs a way to get better camera features so that he can take better pictures and videos in his fitness industry.
4. Sally needs a durable phone to handle [the] fitness industry where it might get wet or drop.
5. John needs a way to compare available phones so that he can get the most appropriate device for his needs.

Step 4 | Ideate

The next step was to brainstorm as many potential solutions on sticky notes to address these needs statements in 3 minutes, focusing on quantity > quality. We encouraged participants to pitch any idea they could think of—after all, how might we innovate if we only stick to the status quo?

Step 5 & 6 | Ideate

Once more, we asked participants to (Step 5) get together in teams and cluster their ideas, before (Step 6) individually evaluating and voting on what they consider are the best ideas based on feasibility (is it feasible for this idea to be developed?) and impact (will this idea be impactful to users?).

Step 7 | Ideate

We asked participants to (Step 5) get together in teams and cluster their ideas, before (Step 6) individually evaluating and voting on what they consider are the best ideas based on feasibility (is it feasible for this idea to be developed?) and impact (will this idea be impactful to users?).

Next Steps

Due to time constraints, this is where the design challenge ended. However, we briefly introduced our participants to UX prototyping and usability testing (a topic for future workshops) using the following slides:



As a first-time instructor, I was very pleased with the experience I gained from this workshop. I was particularly encouraged by the positive comments I received from both my workshop co-instructor and participant feedback (verbal and forms).

Ultimately, by employing a design thinking methodology to develop this workshop, I was successful in faciltating an active learning experience that was not only relatable to participants, but concurrently demonstrated the effectiveness of design thinking and user experience research and design.

Challenges & Next Steps

Despite our iteratve feedback, test runs and planning, we went a few minutes overtime, as some participants experienced difficulty with the early stages of the challenge. This suggests that our instructions should be re-examined—particularly for clarity and jargon.

Ultimately, this was a very successful workshop. Despite seeing 16 registered attendees, a significant amount of registrants did not show up. However, thanks to our workshop's design, we would have been able to run the workshop with anywhere between 4–20 attendees.

Closing Thoughts

As a strong advocate for interdisciplinary cooperation, the most (pleasantly) surprising aspect of this workshop was seeing how participants were able to make broader connections to their personal, academic, or businiess interests/goals, and apply UX and design thinking in these contexts.

This workshop was the first-of-its-kind at UTSC, and was my first instructional experience. Although I was nervous with the short amount of time (one hour) we were given, this was a very enjoyable experience to both teach and work with participants about something I am passionate about. I am excited to gain more experience facilitating workshops on this (or related) topics in similar or longer lengths of time.


General Comments | What did you learn?

Excellent! Fun! Immediately actionable. Excellent UX experience.

I learned HOW to do it, not just words, ideas, and theories!

I might start thinking about testing using real users, and consulting others to improve my design in my feature endeavours.

I've learned that thinking outside the box is critical in the brainstorming phase.

[I learned about] a structured methodology to move forward and justify decisions [based on a] NEED:BENEFIT focus.

How does what you've learned today connect to the broader goals of your courses or career goals?

I can use the stuff I've learned today on my current projects about putting open modules on public online platforms!

Hoping to create my own business or do some sort of personal project, so hopefully UX design helps in the process!

Assists with the application of understanding International Development- & Environmental Science-based solutions, and how often they do not address they user.


Introduction to UX Design Workshop

Photo of Sarah Guay. Sarah Guay
Liaison Librarian | Web & UX Librarian
Photo of Joshua Shum. Joshua Shum
User Experience Librarian Intern