Understanding participatory design
While many organizations are embracing design-led innovation, a design team’s interactions with customers are frequently limited to the early research and late evaluation phases of the design process. Between these phases is where ideas are generated, a process that occurs internally with little to no external input.
Participatory design seeks to remedy this issue by inviting all stakeholders into the design process. This helps the design team understand, meet, and even pre-empt stakeholder needs by having them take an active role in design solutions for themselves.
When an organization adopts the mindset of designing with stakeholders and not for stakeholders, it tends to develop more innovative and customer-centric products and services. Participatory design also helps a business:
- Better understand how people think about a given problem, discipline, or technology.
- Determine if there is a contradiction between what an end-user says they will do and what they actually do.
- Determine if there is a cultural or political disconnect between itself and the end-user.
Participatory design strategies
- Journey mapping – here, customers map out their current experiences on a journey map. This includes frustrations, challenges, pain points, and areas for opportunity. Some organizations find that extracting information within the context of the entire customer experience yields better results than focusing on standalone issues.
- Magic button – an activity that encourages customers to imagine their ideal experience. In other words, what if they could get what they wanted, when they wanted it? The magic button also helps customers focus on their “right-now” needs.
- Lensed brainstorming – the goal of lensed brainstorming is to generate lots of ideas in a short time. Note that a lens is one or two words representing a key concept, brand attribute, or mindset that helps participants look at a scenario differently. Three to five lenses per group with 2 minutes spent brainstorming on each will deliver the best results.
Benefits of participatory design
There are many benefits to the participatory design process. Some of the more significant benefits include:
- Reduced risk of failure – with more stakeholders participating in the design process, the implication is that more people will check each step and uncover mistakes.
- Engagement – by its very nature, participatory design helps stakeholders feel a sense of pride and ownership over the product design process. Empowered stakeholders are more likely to be invested in the final product and more broadly, organizational success.
- Innovation – the participation of more stakeholders also brings with it more expertise and a diverse range of perspectives. End-users in particular help the design team consider fresh and original ideas that help them question their assumptions.
- Participatory design (PD) is an approach to product design involving the active participation of researchers, end-users, partners, citizens, designers, employees, and other stakeholders.
- Participatory design helps customers uncover unmet needs via journey mapping, the magic button, and lensed brainstorming, among other techniques. This inclusive approach to product development helps the organization understand, meet, and pre-empt stakeholder needs.
- Participatory design reduces the risk of failure and guarantees there is more expertise to uncover and rectify mistakes. Stakeholders who are engaged in the process are more likely to be invested in the success of the product. They also bring fresh perspectives to sometimes insular product design teams.
Related concepts to parcipipatory design
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