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Author's profile photo Thomas Eckert

Participatory Prototyping: Can End-Users be the better UX Designers?

Thankfully, nowadays it is best practice in software development to validate UX designs for new software with future users as soon as possible. This is especially true, if the development team works according to Design Thinking principles. But could we go beyond “user validation” and let the business users
themselves design their software UX as they like it most? Recently I had the chance to test this with a group of business users coming from the market intelligence area of a consumer products company.

After doing some pre-research and identifying the analytical scenarios within scope, we grouped the business user into teams and did a 8 hours prototyping workshop with them at an offsite location with a creative, unconventional, loft-like atmosphere. Of course, before diving into UX design, we started with describing the users typical working situations, their needs, feelings and wishes (persona). But then, we asked the users to sketch the most import analytical scenarios as an initial low-fi prototype. Afterwards we did a feedback round from the other groups and an ideation slot for getting some creative spice on top. Finally, we did a further iteration and fine tuning of the prototypes.

The engagement of the business users was impressing. It was obviously fun for them and the quality of working results went definitely beyond my expectations.


To which level of detail can you go with this? Of course UX standards and guidelines, where not part of this workshop. It also makes no sense to focus on details like the size, color and position of buttons within a screen. But it was perfectly possible

  • to outline the start screen of a scenario (which information do I want to see there and which basic functions and features?)
  • the typical navigation path (how does the “analytical helicopter” approach the target information)
  • and the landing page (which information do I want to see there and which basic functions and features?)

We called this approach “participatory prototyping” and even, it was not easy to pull out the business user from their daily work, nobody lamented about
the 8 hours invest afterwards as they really liked, what they have created. For the few participants coming from the software development team, the workshop was an eye-opener and well spent time as well.

Next step will be the transformation of the sketched prototypes into a clickable mock-up and here, the work of professional screen designers will be
in the foreground. This means, participatory prototyping is absolutely helpful and accelerating at the beginning of an UX centered development project but, of course, it cannot replace the expertise of design professionals. The creation of the mock-up will be a creative exercise with validations and iterations again, but the ground is well prepared now. This is especially true, as the business users consider the planned software as their baby and don’t need to be convinced anymore.  


Thomas Eckert works since “decades” in various roles for SAP and is nowadays acting as Program Manager within Services Innovation, a global function of SAP Services.   

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      Author's profile photo Sylvia Santelli
      Sylvia Santelli

      Very interesting, letting the business user provide the initial mockup. Sounds like the designers agreed with the thought process? Do you think the end result will be pretty close to the original intentions setup at the beginning? 

      I like the concept that the business users have buy in from the beginning. That is so valuable to have on projects like this.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      I've recently had a similar experience, though it was a lot more ad-hoc (3 or 4 people in an office with a whiteboard), and I as the designer did have some initial thoughts for the users to work with. It was however, from my point of view, very useful - as it exposed a number of issues with concepts we had come up with. It took a long time to find an answer to one of them, but we did, and in the end the final mockup presentation delighted the group of users that they got an answer to the problem they found right at the beginning.