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A guide to brainstorming web projects

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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We often find that some project teams take brainstorming far too lightly, either not taking it seriously enough or by using ineffective methods, or in some cases skipping the process altogether. Effective brainstorming not only kicks a project into action, but it also helps to get everyone on the team involved and in the right frame of mind. Done correctly, it can set a project out on the right foot, bringing ideas to life, setting solid targets and goals, creating focus, and building energy and buzz. There are several means and methods for effective brainstorming and some will work better for different teams and projects than others. Despite this, there is a simple structure to brainstorming which everyone should aware of. Below is our collection of effective brainstorming tips.

Effective Brainstorming Tips – Get well prepared

effective brainstorming tips

Brainstorming is an important part of preparing for your projects, but you also need to do certain prep work before starting your brainstorming sessions. While brainstorming needs a level of fluidity and freedom for it to work best, it also needs rules and organization in order to allow that freedom and make sure the right exercises are done efficiently and effectively.

The first step of any project is to try to work out what the project actually is (or what the client wants/needs); it’s pointless brainstorming if the basic aims and goals aren’t there. While your goals and targets may well change and evolve as a result of good brainstorming, targets need to be present at the start to give your project direction and save you from chaos.

You also need to have a set of rules or guidelines in place. If your project is for a client you need to know their expectations and limitations. You also need to know the project’s budget and time frame/deadlines, and evaluate your tools, team and existing skills. On top of this you need to assess any similar projects you have performed and evaluate what worked and what didn’t. All of this should help you to create the guidelines to give your brainstorming some structure and focus.

Take action: Set your initial aims and goals of the project, and create set of rules or guidelines to work within.

Effective Brainstorming Tips – Get inspired

effective brainstorming tips

One thing many effective brainstorming sessions have in common is inspiration. As part of your research and pre-brainstorming routine you need to find points of inspiration to help stimulate and motivate your team to bring out ideas and let the creativity flow.

One way to do this is to look at similar projects you have worked on, or similar products to the one you are looking to produce. The purpose of this is not to copy or reproduce such products, but too look at how things could have been done better or improved. The aim of your project is to take these ideas to the next level.

Another form of inspiration can actually be the tools and techniques available. Look at new widgets, software, techniques, technology, or anything new and innovative that could work to support your idea. You can even look into the latest successful apps and software that are not related to your project and take inspiration from what they have done (again, not aiming to copy or replicate their ideas, but to find inspiration in what they have done).

Effective brainstorming tips sometimes sound cliché, like this one, but you should also try ‘thinking outside the box’ and find some alternative forms of inspiration. This can be almost anything, but things which inspires a certain mood, style, or energy fitting your initial vision or goal. If you are trying to create an app or website you can still find inspiration in a song, or a piece of art work, or maybe even a piece of prose. It may help to go for a walk or drive, maybe sit in a coffee shop and watch a market square, visit an art gallery or museum; inspiration can often be found in the least expected places. Open you mind and look, listen, and take in the world around you with an open mind.

Take action: Find several points of inspiration to kick start your brainstorming sessions.

Decide on your brainstorming techniques

Today there are a number of good brainstorming apps and tools to help a team brainstorm over time and add their thoughts, comments, and ideas when they come to mind. One of our effective brainstorming tips is to utilize these tools available to you. Mind mapping tools create a kind of virtual whiteboard and can be a great way to record such ideas, collecting thoughts, and starting the initial planning.

A few recommended brainstorming tools:

effective brainstorming tips

Mindmeister: a multi platform, cloud based, mind mapping tool with a simple interface and easy-to-use controls. It works in real time and includes live chat.

Stormboard: inspired by more traditional brainstorming methods, Stormboard is a kind of virtual whiteboard, with neat features to help team members prioritize and vote on ideas.

MindMap: popular Google Chrome extension, compatible with Google Drive and DropBox. This mind mapping tool has nice features which let you embed your ideas and results within your website(s).

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Alternatively you may find you prefer a more traditional form of brainstorming, having everyone sat around a table and using a whiteboard or paper to record and expand on ideas. If you choose this method it’s important to create the right environment:

  • Choose proper meeting rooms with large tables and office chairs over more laidback environments (with too much comfort) or places with unnecessary distractions.
  • Have somebody in charge of the session and recording the ideas, and introduce a system of speaking and sharing ideas i.e. raising your hand and being introduced to speak.
  • Introduce physical points of inspiration to bring the sessions to life, whether these be print outs, pictures, objects, or pieces of music.
  • Take regular breaks, especially when the ideas are drying up. And consider breaking the brainstorming into 2 or 3 sessions, taking place on different days.

Take action: decide whether you would like to use mind mapping software or if you’d prefer a more physical and traditional method; sitting around a table working on paper or a whiteboard (or maybe a combination of the two).

Effective Brainstorming Tips – Getting started

effective brainstorming tips

Following this simple structure to brainstorming should help you create a free and fluid arena to bring ideas to life  and firm up your aims and goals for your project. The main points to remember are:

  • Do the necessary prep work before starting your brainstorming session and choose your preferred method of brainstorming.
  • Kick start your brainstorming session by clearly sharing your goals and targets, setting the project limitations and guidelines, and introducing your points of inspiration.
  • Make sure your brainstorming sessions stick within the rules and guidelines you have created, and bring things quickly back on point when they start to drift to far outside.

While there are no bad ideas it’s a good idea to avoid any negativity, especially during the early part of your brainstorming. Potential dangers or points of failure should be heard and recorded but not dwelled upon, and it’s up to you to encourage and maintain a positive vibe and tone to the sessions.


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