100 User Experience (UX) Design and Evaluation Methods for Your Toolkit
This is the 14th in a series of 100 short articles about UX design and evaluation methods. Today’s method is “Yes, and …”. This is a technique borrowed from improvisational (improv) theater that can be used to generate ideas and requirements. The technique requires little training and can be used with small or larger groups.
Method 14 of 100: “Yes, and …”
In the world of improv theater, performers start with an idea or scene and then build on that by adding a bit of information. The process of adding new information is referred to as “Yes, and …” and this method allows performers to continually redefine the scene and make leaps into new dramatic (or comedic) territory.
The approach can be used in the UX domain as a way to explore possible user scenarios, generate requirements, brainstorm, or envision future concepts. To start the process, you provide an initial verbal scenario and then ask colleagues to say “Yes, and …” and then fill in some new information or add new requirements.
Here is a short hypothetical “Yes, and …” session undertaken by a group of design colleagues or foodies who are defining the concept of an electronic menu for a new restaurant:
- I am planning a new restaurant and want to use electronic menus that offer the diner all the information that a waiter or waitress could normally provide.
- (a colleagues says) “Yes, and the electronic menu must be water proof because kids might spill things on it…
- (another colleagues says) “Yes, and we need to provide pictures of our meals…
- Yes, and we need to a way to allow people to do substitutions…
- Yes, and we need to include a way for people to tell us about allergies...
- Yes, and the calorie count must be included – that’s the law now…
- Yes, and we need to know if this is a romantic dinner or that someone is going to propose…
- Yes, and when someone is going to propose, we can bring out our special cake and make sure this is something they remember.
- ... and on and on and on with “Yes, and …”
When to Use:
This method can be used early in the product design and development process as a way to elicit requirements, explore concepts, or even help develop personas. This approach sometimes reveals gaps or missing requirements that might elude more structured approaches. It is also a fun and simple approach that can enliven a tired team.
- If you read the improv literature, you will find different approaches for the “Yes, and …” method, but the basic process is to assemble a group and provide a starting statement or scenario like the electronic menu example.
- Describe the "Yes, and ..." method and provide a brief example.
- Consider if there are props that you could use to trigger ideas, for example, in the electronic menu example, you might bring an iPad to the “Yes, and …” session.
- Ask someone to write the ideas where they are visible to the group or tape the session so you capture all the details.
- Have the leader of the group start the “Yes, and …” session with the introductory statement.
- Encourage someone to say “Yes, and …” and add something new. If you need to, you can say “Yes, and …” to prompt the next reply.
- Continue until the group slows down.
- Thank everyone for their contributions and willingness to engage in the “Yes, and …” activity.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
+ The basic “Yes, and …” method as applied to UX does not require a lot of training (though if you are planning on doing improve for a living and will depend on humor, you will need a lot of practice to be perceived as spontaneous). As a side note, some training on improv and theater techniques could be quite useful for a UX group. There are many papers on the application of theatrical methods to product design.
- I’ve seen this method get a bit out of control and you might need to intervene at some point and direct the group away from the ridiculous without seeming like a dictator. In improv theater, you would not generally engage in this type of blocking of the scene development, but in the product development world, sometimes you need to change a focus that has gone outside the bounds of usefulness or appropriateness.
Danzico, L. (2010). From Davis to David: lessons from improvisation. interactions 17, 2 (March 2010), 20-23.
Gerber, E. (2009). Using improvisation to enhance the effectiveness of brainstorming. Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '09), 97-104.
Wikipedia. Improvisational theatre. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Improvisational_theatre on June 1, 2011
What’s Next in the Series?
The next UX method posting will discuss misuse scenarios. These are scenarios that focus on threats, both intentional and unintentional, to a system.