According to the User Centred Design (UCD) philosophy, prospective end-users should be given a central role in a design process. The foremost purpose of including users in the design process is to get better insights into future use situations in order to design products, services or forms of organisation that meet the users’ needs. There are numerous tools and methods that promote a specific implementation of UCD. These differ in the way they involve users (e.g. from users as designers to users as concept testers) and in the design activities they target (e.g. early design phase activities or detailed design phase activities).
Active user involvement aims to give users an active role in product design in order to produce insights into users’ needs, their practical knowledge and into the use situations that products are used in. Participatory design is a specific form of user involvement that serves a democratic ideal by accentuating the aim of giving citizens or workers a voice in design decisions that influence their lives. The use of special tools and techniques enables users to take an active role in designing and experiencing product concepts revealing covert or subconscious user needs. In this way users can apply their practical knowledge, and complex use situations can become more concrete.
UCD tools and methods can be characterised by two properties, namely the design activities they support, and
the role end-users play during these activities. The diagram below uses these properties to illustrate the position of active user involvement and participatory design within the field of UCD methods. The horizontal axis outlines the project phases in which the methods can be used. The vertical axis outlines the intended level of user involvement achieved with each method.
Overview of methods for stakeholder involvement in relation to the level of involvement and the phase of application
(Source: de Bont et al (2014). Advanced Design Methods. NL: Design United)