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Participatory Design

Participatory design is a process that involves developers, business representatives, and users working together to design a solution. It actively involves users in the design process to help ensure that the product designed meets their needs and is usable in the process.


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Detailed description


  • Gives users a voice in the design process.
  • Enables technical and non-technical participants to contribute equally.
  • Shifts the focus from purely technical requirements and issues towards the needs of the business and users.
  • A forum for developers to meet, work with, and understand their users.
  • A forum for identifying issues and assigning them to people for resolution.
  • A forum to specify Design Goals that can be used for current and future products or versions.
  • Enables a team to rapidly design, evaluate and iterate design approaches.
  • Increases oppportunities to promote “buy-in” from users. Buy-in is the extent to which people who will use a system feel attached to it and support its goals. By having users help make design decisions, they are less likely to reject the system being designed.
  • A forum to introduce UX into an organization - Selling UX

Planning Questions

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • Can it best be achieved by participatory design or, for example, by having one developer or designer work on the issue?
  • How important is the activity you’re undertaking? i.e. There is not much point conducting extensive participatory design activities for a piece of functionality that will be rarely used.


How To

The Workshop

  • Objectives - Have a clear set of objectives.
  • Number of participants - Aim for no more than 10 people including a facilitator, 2 representative users, 2 business representatives (this may include a product specialist), 2 developers and 1 note taker
  • Duration - 0.5 to 1 day (this could be broken up into smaller workshops)
  • Materials - Prepare an Agenda, goals and objectives, expectations, ground rules, scenarios/stories to walkthrough the design, best practice for the design you are looking at, past research that is relevant, the design problem in focus and stationary to prototype with.

Closing the Workshop

  • Summarise what you have achieved
  • Document the design
  • Determine Next Steps



Sources and contributors: 
Daniel Szuc, Gerry Gaffney.
Released: 2011-03
© 2010 Usability Professionals Association