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Bringing Users Into Your Process through Participatory Design

We've been seeing an intense pressure on businesses to rapidly make sense of customer needs and demands, then incorporate that feedback into new or existing products. For today's designers, it can be challenging to make well-informed decisions about the large and small details that comprise these products, especially when working within the constraints of an agile/scrum methodology.

At frog, one of the methods we turn to regularly to identify and incorporate user feedback into products is participatory design. Participatory design aims to bring users into the design process by facilitating conversations through the creation and completion of a wide range of activities. We create activities to facilitate sharing and conversation with users, providing them with materials to descriptively discuss their personal experiences and express their desires for ideal solutions. By doing this, we are able to work directly with current and future users of products and services, quickly discovering important criteria to fold into the next iteration of a product, service, or experience strategy.

In the past year, Erin Muntzert and I had a chance to teach our approach for conducting participatory design to UX designers in workshops globally at Interaction 13, UX London, and UX Week. Based on the feedback from participants in those workshops, we wanted to publicly share the slide deck we used in the workshops, which delves into how Erin and I plan, construct, and facilitate participatory activities to incorporate user feedback into product and service solutions.

This workshop was informed by our own practice in designing and conducting hundreds of participatory design sessions, paired with additional input from other leaders within frog's design research practice. Along with frog's open-source Collective Action Toolkit, which Erin and I helped co-author, this workshop is part of our hope to better share the tools and skills that designers use with individuals and organizations around the world.

David Sherwin is an interaction design director at frog. He has built his reputation as a design leader, interaction designer, and researcher with 17 years of experience in generating compelling solutions for systemic business problems. David is the author of Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills and Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You can follow David on Twitter @changeorder.