Discovering Unmet Needs & New Solutions Through Participatory Design
As organizations embrace design-led innovation, they sometimes struggle to reap the full value of human centered design. Teams can find their interactions with customers limited only to the early research and late evaluation phases of the design process, while the work in between–generating ideas and novel solution concepts–is often left to the internal team alone. We risk missing opportunities to discover some of the most valuable and customer-centered solutions.
Additionally, throughout the design process, it’s not uncommon to encounter:
- A lack of stakeholder empathy for customers and their challenges
- Difficulty reconciling customer’s behaviors (what customers say they do vs. what they actually do)
- Challenges identifying the most valuable opportunities (what customers say they want vs. what they actually need)
Participatory design brings customers into the heart of the design process as a technique for both the research and brainstorming phases of a project, where the end-users of a product, service, or experience take an active role in designing solutions for themselves. Whether designing for customers, employees, or other stakeholders, when we move past the challenge of designing for them and begin designing with them, we find the outcomes are more innovative and customer-centered.
With participatory design methods, we can:
- Better understand the latent needs of customers that may not be uncovered by other forms of discovery or usability research
- Develop deeper empathy for our customers and richer understanding of their experiences interacting with our brand
- Bring focus to the pain points that have the greatest impact and generate awareness for the opportunities that might otherwise go undiscovered
- Generate a larger and more innovative pool of potential solutions than a design team working alone
- Bring customers into the design process, shifting away from “designing for” and toward “designing with”