Participatory design

Participatory design, also called co-design, is when IT solutions or products are developed in an iterative process in cooperation with the future user.


In participatory design, designers and users work together to develop a system or product. A characteristic feature of this system is that there is no precisely defined process.

In the course of the development process, all participants take an iterative approach. A continuous improvement process begins, in which the product is gradually improved and developed. The subsequent user is involved in the entire design process.

Adaptation and further development are repeated until the end product satisfies the user and fulfills his or her requirements. If the user is presented with the current state of development, prototypes are shown. The participatory design is thus significantly different from the traditional system development, where the analysis of requirements is at the beginning of the project and the design and implementation are carried out following a rigid process.

Advantages of participatory design

Participatory design has a number of advantages:

  • Continuous functionality refinement
  • Considers the users' point of view and experience
  • Improved Design Quality
  • User motivation due to their participation in design development


The danger of participatory design is that systems or products are developed too quickly. This is why it often happens that individual participants get involved and make decisions about the design without actually discussing it with the other participants. In addition, acceptance may be lacking if users are involved too late or insufficiently.

Methods of participatory design

In order to incorporate the user's experience and wishes, a number of methods are used:

  • Questionnaire: Ask users their opinions with open questions
  • Interview: Survey of users’ opinions and criticisms
  • Workshop: Processing of individual tasks to design specific functions
  • Core team: Build a development team of users and designers to design features
  • Observation: Observational participation of users within the context of the actual analysis
  • Future workshop: Discussion of possible future scenarios
  • Pilot phase: System components that are already in working order are put through a long-term test to check the functional scope.
  • Prototypes: Paper prototypes show users how to develop products

Importance for online marketing

Whenever web applications are produced for the end users, the use of participatory design may be worthwhile. Users can suggest improvements, therefore making sure the design works as it should. An improved usability and a more pleasant user experience can occur, which in turn has a positive effect on the conversion. The same applies to the design of apps and applications for smartphones and tablets.