Design meetings: how to maximize productivity & collaboration
How many meetings have you attended in your professional lifetime?
Too many to count, right?
People attend an average of between 11 to 15 meetings per week—around 33% of the workweek is spent in meetings. Getting them right has a huge impact on productivity and efficiency.
In the article you’ll learn about the different types of design team meetings and how you as a UX leader and manager can optimize your meeting process and improve your UX team.
Knowing what type of design meeting is right for your goals
Different design meetings have different goals. Ensuring there’s a clear objective for your design meetings is half the battle—it’s a lot easier to navigate when you know the final destination.
Here are ten common types of design meetings that refer to concrete objectives and applications.
New project intake
This is the meeting in which you introduce a new project to the team—including details on the requirements, goals, and expected delivery window.
Kick-off and alignment
This is where the team discusses the new project in depth. It typically revolves around a brief description created by the client or project lead. It includes details on existing research or knowledge and defines key stages and roles.
This is where the team gets together to ideate potential solutions to the outlined problem. The team then discusses proposed solutions to settle on a course of action.
These are check-in meetings to inform team members and stakeholders of the status of the design process. They can be held at any point during the project.
These check-in meetings involve discussing designs with developers to ensure they’re feasible—both in general and in relation to a specific timeframe.
The design review meeting is where designers meet with core stakeholders to present and discuss work. It often involves gathering feedback defending design decisions when questioned and agreeing to additional research and changes if necessary. If no changes are requested, then design review meetings are where designers get the green light to move into development.
This is when the design project is sent into development—it’s a meeting between designers and developers to ensure designs and next steps are clear.
This meeting is a check-in between designers and developers to ensure the product being delivered matches the one that was designed. Any issues are discussed and addressed in line with what works for both teams. Essentially, they typically end in a compromise.
This is one of the last meetings before the product launch. It typically doesn’t require much action, it’s more about ensuring everything is up to scratch and ready to go.
This meeting is a feedback workshop held following the product launch. It revolves around evaluating the design process and the final result.
Preparing your design meeting agenda
A clear agenda sets expectations and enables your UX team to effectively prepare for their upcoming meeting. Here are some tips on preparing your next design meeting agenda.
- Set clear objectives and goals: in the next section we’ll look at the different types of design meetings—all of which have specific design objectives and goals. You can also outline the key goals of a meeting in the agenda, and we suggest doing so.
- Include details on each attendee's role: set your team's expectations ahead of the meeting by allocating responsibilities in advance. This helps reduce team anxiety overcoming underprepared and gives greater insights into exactly what will be discussed.
- Share key documents ahead of time: just like our last point, sharing key documents ahead of time helps ensure a smoother design meeting. These documents can be included directly in the agenda—meaning everyone’s got them to hand on the day.
- Establish a discussion process: meetings involve discussions, whether they be on designs, next steps, or more. Outline the process for making decisions in the agenda to ensure there’s a clear process to adhere to in order to get everything done.
Every agenda is built differently as meetings vary when it comes to their goals and objectives (as you’ll see shortly). For example, we asked Scott Hurff, seasoned UX manager and Churnkey Co-Founder and CPO, about what’s always on his weekly design meeting agendas:
“Follow-ups on action items from last week, and reviewing progress there. Reviewing raw customer data, feedback, or analytics that are fueling key decisions are also typically on my agendas.”
Whatever you need to review or discuss, make sure to provide a clear agenda that sets expectations and enables your UX team to prepare for the meeting.
3 Expert tips for conducting productive design meetings
Conducting productive design meetings isn’t a skill you gain overnight—it’s a skill you develop over time and after countless design meetings. It’s a key learning curve to overcome as a UX manager—one that leads to greater efficiency and team satisfaction.
We turned to Scott for his tips on conducting effective design meetings. This is what he said:
Keep it to your immediate team
“This should be a time for your design team to bond, challenge each other, and understand what everyone else is working on. The occasional outside guest is fine, but I prefer to treat design meetings as sacred.”
Of course, there will likely be meetings which require stakeholders from outside of the design team—but when they’re not needed, don’t invite them.
You want to ensure UX designers know they’ve got a safe space to share ideas and developments. It’s a time to get stuff done, but it’s also important to foster collaboration amongst your direct UX team—and this can be affected by having other teams present.
Promote active participation and direct critique
“Design team meetings should feel like a safe place where everyone can work out solutions to ideas that aren’t quite hitting the mark yet. And when you establish that there are no stupid ideas, they flow like water, promoting active participation and direct critique.”
Ensuring people feel like they can share ideas without judgment leads to more productive meetings—whatever the topic or objective. In a non-judgmental environment, feedback and critiques aren’t viewed as an attack, but more as a collaborative effort to create the best designs and experiences around.
Reserve some time for creativity
“Finally, reserve some time for everyone to show off or recommend something they find inspiring.”
Make time to engage your team—UX design is a creative process that requires continual learning and development from your designers. Encourage them to share new knowledge with their peers!
You could even engage them around a design team activity—we’ve got plenty (17, to be exact) to choose from.
Common mistakes that lead to unproductive meetings
There are also a couple of things you want to avoid to ensure you conduct successful meetings.
1. No direction or clear takeaways
A meeting with no direction and clear OKRs (objectives and key results) is hard to lead. It’s for this reason that you need a meeting agenda to outline the direction and end goal for each meeting. Plus, with no direction, veering off-topic and wasting meeting time is a greater risk.
2. No ground rules
Another common mistake when it comes to conducting meetings is to not establish ground rules. These are the rules that outline how your meeting will be conducted—from the behavior expected from meeting participants to the decision-making process when concerning multiple stakeholders.
3. Not enough input
There’s nothing less productive than gathering your team for a meeting and receiving little to no participation. It’s the UX manager’s responsibility to create an environment in which designers feel like they can contribute to the discussion without fear of judgment.
This type of supportive environment is especially crucial during design review meetings. When designers present their work or design challenges, they are in a vulnerable position, showcasing their ideas and creative efforts. By fostering an environment that values open dialogue, constructive feedback, and psychological safety, the UX manager ensures that design review meetings become opportunities for growth and improvement.
4. Focusing on time, not tasks
The value and effectiveness of your meetings aren’t dictated by their length, but by your ability to achieve all the desired outcomes. If you’ve ticked off all tasks 20 minutes before the meeting is due to end—there’s no need to prolong it or find additional topics to discuss. If your meeting looks like it needs to run over, check that everyone can stay and put those extra minutes in.
That being said, aim to allocate the time that you need—meetings that run over are unpopular and you don’t want a reputation for poor time UX management.
Following up after design meetings
So, what comes after your meeting? Do you relax, close your laptop, and call it job done? Not quite, here’s what we recommend.
- Document meeting notes: your meeting agenda can, and should, be turned into meeting minutes following meeting completion. An effective agenda includes everything you discussed—making it easy to jump back in and add details on final decisions and outcomes.
- Assign actions in your project management software: it’s essential to outline action items following your meeting. You want them clearly written down in a document or project management tool that everyone can access. Without clear next steps, you’ll likely be having the same meeting in two weeks' time.
- Schedule follow-up meetings: it’s important to outline when you next plan to meet, i.e. when the next steps are expected to be completed. Your team has a lot on their plate—they need a clear idea of how to prioritize tasks in their workload.
Conduct better UX team meetings
Sticking to these tips will help you conduct productive meetings that provide valuable direction to attendees. Whether it’s junior developers who need their next steps, or upper management looking at the value of UX—these UX team meeting tips are sure to point you in the right direction.
If you’ve got attendees who need to be caught up to speed—maybe from other teams or an outside stakeholder—consider providing them with the learning materials ahead of your meeting. Uxcel Teams enables you to upskill team members—be they from the UX teams or not—with intuitive lessons and courses on core and niche UX concepts and methodologies. Ensure everyone’s on the same page at your next UX meeting; try the 14-day free trial today.