Participatory Design

What is participatory design?

Participatory design research involves inviting users, developers, and stakeholders to play an active role during the design process. Participants bring their own views of the problem and may offer ideas or possibilities that were not evident.

How to conduct a participatory design session:

Give the users a blank canvas to create a site that works for them and provide a list of known elements that will be on the page. Ask the user to prioritize where sections would go on a page, down to the detail of how a widget looks and what it contains. After the exercise is complete, ask the participants to explain why they envisioned the site the way they did. A participatory design session is typically done prior to any design work. Organize a participatory design session when you want to better understand how people think about a given problem.


Participatory design in the simplest form ask users and stakeholders to try their hand at designing an interface, website, etc. This can be facilitated by giving them a sheet of paper and a prompt.


By asking people who don’t typically design things to design something, you may encounter obvious issues with the concept they create. That said, there can often be valuable insights hidden within.


Facilitating an effective participatory design session can be challenging, as you’ll need to convey effectively what tasks need to be supported and assist participants with visualizing their ideas while avoiding priming them.