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4 minute read - by Stina Vanhoof

3 ways to involve the user in the design process

Involving the end user in the decision making process helps organisations build the right product for the right people. It reduces the risk of failure after implementation and therefore helps to save time and money. There are many different ways in which you can involve users. So instead of giving you fluffy advice or complicated methodologies, I decided to share 3 practical ways to involve the most important stakeholder in your decision making process: the user.

Hear feedback directly from end users

In large organisations not everyone has direct contact with the end user. However, most employees are daily working on delivering a part of a customer experience. Hearing directly from a user what the impact of your work is on their lives can be very rewarding and motivating. Or it can trigger an urge to improve things internally for the better. That’s why we make it our mission to bring our clients and end users together, which leads to better products and services.

This can be done in many low barrier ways. Placing a user in front of a (digital) product and letting them go through a couple of use cases during a usability test creates many valuable insights. By livestreaming the test, the whole team can see firsthand how the user interacts with the service and which challenges they encounter. A second method to bring in one or more end users is a co-creation workshop. Here we solve complex design problems together through interactive group exercises. The cross-pollination between end users and people delivering the service triggers a common understanding and therefore results in better outcomes on the longer run. The third example is creating a video of different users sharing their personal experiences. When possible we bring our camera to interviews or usability tests and capture all the honest answers. These result in a compilation of insights that can be shared in an emphatic, personal and visually appealing way within the whole organisation.


Show, don't tell

When it comes to understanding the end user better, showing prototypes is far more helpful than just asking questions. Showing prototypes gives the user a clearer understanding of what we mean, without the risk of getting lost in semantics.

Prototypes can be build for all sorts of ideas: from a new website until a new way of welcoming users at your reception. Building quick and dirty prototypes reduces the risk of failures after implementation. And it reduces the risk of high development costs for functions people will never use. When moving from low to high fidelity prototypes and involving the user in every step of this process we make sure the right decisions are made. Don’t be afraid to show unfinished prototypes, a quick visualisation of an early idea can already deliver manye insights to move into the right direction.

These prototypes don’t only function as an artefact to show to users but is also a concrete visualisation of your idea to get feedback from the whole organization. Don’t forget that employees are often internal users as well!


Strategic decisions based on user needs

Many organisations immediately focus on creating a user-friendly product or service but forget about the desirability. Are we building the right product? Are we building something the user is waiting for? Are we building something that will benefit our organisation? You can involve the voice of the user in your strategic decision making process as well.

Here are some examples on how to do this. When improving services you can organise a focus group, a session where you bring together a group of users to share their personal experiences. We ask users to map their previous experiences through a personal journey map and ask them to pinpoint pains and positives and discuss them with the whole group. These exercises result in priorities from the users' perspective and can thus be used in a decision making process next to business and functional requirements. These stories (customer journey map) can be shared throughout the whole organisation?

The same exercises can be done during contextual in-depth interviews. Move into your users context and ask them to show you how they use your product or service. While observing the user you can ask a lot of questions to understand their behavior. When you translate these stories into a visual, e.g. a journey map or a storyboard with pictures of the user in action, these stories can be used as artifacts to make decisions based on users needs.

Next to these qualitative research methods with personal stories it is important to collect quantitative data about the user experience as well. Before you start using data analytics it is important to set some KPI’s and decide what you want to measure.There is too much to measure to capture it all, so decide what you want to measure and set up a personalised dashboard based on your companies KPI’s. Every Time an important decision needs to be made make sure to bring these reports to the table and base your decisions on real numbers.



In this blog post, I gave you 3 ways to help you involve your user in both the design process and the process of strategic decision making. To sum it up, we advise you to bring your clients and end users together, show them prototypes instead of just asking questions and bring the users voice around the table will making strategic decisions.


Article by

Stina Vanhoof

Host of the Service Design Podcast and representative of the Belgian Service Design Chapter. Passionate about designing for people, together with people.

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