A Recipe for a Lighter F.I.D.O. Method

I’m a dog fanatic.  Specifically, BIG dogs.  Sure I love them all, but I have a preference.  I’ll pass on Puntable Pooches and take a Big Bruiser any day.  So naturally when I stumbled upon the “FIDO method” I had to check it out.

What is the FIDO method you ask?

It is not a dog training method!  It actually has nothing to do with dogs.

It stands for Freehand Interactive Design Offline (F.I.D.O.) and Donna Tedesco, Ann Chadwick-Dias and Tom Tullis are responsible for developing this participatory design method.  Their paper,  “Freehand Interactive Design Offline (FIDO): A New Method for Participatory Design” [PDF] is on the ‘older’ side, submitted to UPA back in 2004.  I haven’t investigated whether it was published or presented, but don’t let the age fool you:  This team is freakin’ brilliant!!!!

In a nutshell, here’s what they did:

They wanted people to create their ideal financial services homepage. So they went to five different financial services websites and took screen shots.  They cut out the page elements, or components, from each of the pages, laminated the pieces, attached magnets to the back and then asked users to pick our their favorite pieces and arrange them on a magnetic whiteboard.

Read the entire paper because there are some brilliant details and photographs.  Plus if you follow the method to the letter you’d have an excuse to buy some out of the ordinary office supplies.  Heeeellllloooo, BLACK LIGHT!

But that’s the thing.  I couldn’t find a black light in my office supply catalog.  And while I COULD find a laminating machine, I didn’t want to invest in something I might only use once.

So like the chemists over at Cooking Light, I decided to lighten up this wonderful method.

All you need:

  • A wall.
  • Cardstock paper.  It’s got to be heavier than every day loose leaf paper.
  • Sharpies.
  • Scissors.
  • Poster Putty (preferred) or Double-sided Tape.

And this is the real story of how we used the ‘Lighter FIDO Method’ yesterday.

One of our colleagues came down and said something to the effect of:

“I’d like to refresh our homepage, but we don’t have a lot money to change the template. I got a couple of complaints that the boards are too hard to find and I’d like to see if I can make them more visible.”

The time was 1:35 PM.

Step 1:  Print out the homepage and identify the design components you CAN change.

In this case, there were a lot of design elements that were off-limits because it would require changing the underlying content management system template.  We needed to focus on what we COULD change.  We outlined those parts.

Step 2: Draw new design components that fit in the areas you can change.

To get the dimensions right, I just lined up the cardstock with the print out.  Though we do not have a formal component library, there are some components we know are available for reuse.  We talked about the ones that might ‘freshen’ the design and drew them.

Once you’ve got a component drawn, cut it out, slap some putty on the back and walk right up to the print out and stick them on.

Pro Tip: There’s no reason you can’t use this method to design from the ground up.

If you have a component library why not print out your components on card stock, cut them out and bring them to the meeting?

Step 3: Put what doesn’t work off to the side.

Change your mind a thousand times, create new components and keep moving things around and around until you reach a ‘final’ design.

We spent a lot of time just taking the paper pieces off, moving them somewhere else, talking about what might work better, etc.  It was a wonderful collaboration.

Step 4: Annotate the design and scan it.

We got to a place where we felt we were “done” with the design.  So we annotated and scanned it.

DONE! The time was 2:05 PM.

That’s exactly 30 minutes to get to a ‘final’ first design.

But WAIT!  There’s more!

The first design is never the right one.  We all knew the underlying grid was ‘off’ and it made us uncomfortable.  Unfortunately, we may not be able to do much about it because of the budget and template constraints.

In our last 30 minutes we talked about what we might do if more money was allotted.  And then I raced to sketch the idea.  It’s probably the worst sketch I’ve made in quite a while, but at least the idea is now on paper.  It won’t be forgotten.

There you have it – the recipe for a Lighter FIDO Method.  Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!

6 thoughts on “A Recipe for a Lighter F.I.D.O. Method

  1. I love this approach because it allowed us to see our ideas immediately. It’s just a great way to focus on the concepts and purposes of the content and not worry about the details of how something will be done.

  2. I loved the post! Thanks for the reference and comments about our original “FIDO” method. And I really like this “Lighter FIDO” method! (And when I first told my boss at the time that I would be expensing a black light, he thought I had gone off the deep end!)

    • My pleasure! Thank YOU for coming up with the idea. The black light is brilliant. I think teams moving towards adopting lean and agile UX methods could really benefit from this technique. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  3. This is a great tool. Does anyone know if there is an online version? To combine input from those who are too far away to attend the group sessions?

    • I am not aware of one. Any chance the offsite team could participate via web conference? Or could you send snapshots of the design evolution for review and comment?

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