WOW, HOW, NOW, POW design game

Batman pow punch

Picture the scene. Your project team has just had a barn storming ideation session and come up with a stack of brilliant ideas. Whilst of course they’re no doubt all brilliant, some will be more brilliant than others, but how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? The awesome from the awful? The golden nuggets from the erm, regular nuggets. How can you determine which to put on the top of your team’s ‘To-do’ list (or backlog in Agile terminology) and which should be relegated to the bottom faster than a dysfunctional football team? I’ve spoken before about some techniques and tactics you can use, such as pair-wise comparison, priority poker and buy a feature. Today I’m going to talk about something else that you can use to help prioritise a set of ideas or enhancements – the WOW, HOW, NOW, POW design game.

Introducing WOW, HOW, NOW, POW

Wow, How, Now, Pow. It’s not only a great tongue twister and an alternative greeting for friends and loved ones (just please don’t enact a Batman style karate chop at the POW part, Adman West and Burt Ward were trained professionals), it’s also a really great way to prioritise and evaluate ideas and enhancements. Like all good design games it’s best carried out as a group and is ideal following an ideation session, or to help prioritise a team’s backlog. Here’s how you play it.

How to play

To play Wow, How, Now, Pow you will need (in no particular order):

  • A stack of post-it notes (a vital ingredient to any design game)
  • A room with a wall (one will do), and preferably a white board
  • Some people to play with

Like most design games I’ve found that it’s good to get a mixture of people together to play. Participants might include business stakeholders, other UXers, developers, products owners and so on. Try to keep numbers to no more than 7-8, otherwise the group can become a little unwieldy. If you need to involve lots and lots of people, perhaps consider running multiple sessions and then consolidating the outputs.

Mark out a horizontal and vertical line on your whiteboard. If you don’t have a whiteboard you can print out one of the posters at the bottom of this article and stick it up on the wall. Label the horizontal line ‘Implementation cost’, the vertical line ‘UX impact’ and then the 4 sections as WOW, HOW, NOW and POW.

WOW, HOW, NOW, POW board

View full size WOW, HOW, NOW, POW template

Great, you’re now ready to play the game. Take your stack of ideas and enhancements and for each one:

  1. Write it down on a post-it note.
  2. Briefly discuss it with the group so that everyone is clear what the idea or enhancement refers to.
  3. Ask the group to consider how much of an impact it is likely to have on the user’s overall experience. Of course this will just be a best guess, as you really need to implement and then track something to definitively know what the impact is, but usually you can have a pretty good guess. Will this make your users whoop with delight? Will it leave them non-fussed, or in fact make their experience suck worse than a flight on Ryanair?
  4. Place the post-it note on the vertical line depending on what the group thinks the UX impact will be. If the feeling is that it will have a high impact (i.e. be very positive) place it towards the top of the line. If on the other hand the feeling is that it will have a low impact place it towards the bottom of the line.
  5. Now ask the group to consider how costly it would be to implement it. Not just in monetary terms, but also in terms of effort and complexity. Will it be very cheap to implement or turn out to be an expensive white elephant? You could even play a quick game of planning poker to help come to a consensus.
  6. Now move the post-it note to the left or right depending on the estimated cost to implement. If the group thinks that it will be cheap to implement move it towards the left of the horizontal line. If on the other hand the group thinks that it will be expensive to implement move it towards the right of the horizontal line.
  7. Repeat for the other remaining ideas and enhancements. Remember when asking the group to judge UX impact and cost to implement that scores should be comparative. Indeed, it can sometimes be easier to ask, “Will this be cheaper or more expensive to implement than ….?” rather than considering each one in isolation.

You should now have all your ideas and enhancements on the board (or wall) in the form of post-it notes. You know that you marked out the 4 sections (WOW, HOW, NOW, POW), well these will help to prioritise your ideas and enhancements and will help guide the discussion around which ones to focus on first. Depending on its UX impact and cost to implement score, a post-it note will be in one of the following 4 categories.

WOW! (High UX impact, low cost)

Low cost to implement and delivering a high impact on UX, these are the holy grail of ideas and enhancements, the MVPs (most valuable players), the Bees Knees, the Top Bananas. Hopefully they will deliver that all important WOW factor to users, which in light of the peak end rule (which basically says that a user’s memory of an experience is heavily influenced by the positive and negative peaks of that experience, and how the experience finished) is extremely important. Focus on these ideas and put them at the very top of your ‘to-do’ list.

HOW? (High UX impact, High cost)

Like an ageing football (or Soccer to our American friends) centre forward on a hefty pay packet, these ideas and enhancements have the potential to significantly improve things, but could be costly to implement. Before progressing with these ideas and enhancements it’s a good idea to do a little bit of detective work first. HOW might they be implemented for a lower cost? HOW does the UX impact compare with the cost? Ultimately you need to weigh up the cost vs potential benefits and decide if the cost is likely to be worth it. Put these towards the bottom of your list for now, until you’ve done a bit more detective work.

NOW… (Low UX impact, low cost)

These are quick win ideas and enhancements that you should look to implement NOW because whilst they might not have your users dancing with delight, they are cheap to implement and when it comes to creating a great user experience, every little helps. Also, don’t just stick these below your WOW ideas because there might be some very easy quick wins in there. Once again consider the cost vs potential benefits. If something is likely to make a small splash, but is also of very low cost, then it makes sense implementing it straight away.

POW! (Low UX impact, high cost)

A doubly negative whammy, these are ideas that can be swatted away for now (using your best Batman POW sound, although BIFF and KAPOW work equally well) because they are expensive to implement and unlikely to have much of a positive impact on the user experience anyway. However, don’t get rid of them completely because there still might be the nucleus of some good ideas in there. Also, as you learn more you might find that something could be cheaper to implement than you initially thought.


See also