What is UX design?
User experience (UX) design addresses the interaction between users and products. This includes all the aspects of the product such as form and user interface as well as the supporting services. UX design follows a user-centered design process whereby users are brought into the process after the product has been defined in order to evaluate the product concept and to test the usability of the interface. Users are usually not invited into the creative process that takes place at the front end of design.
Co-creation is an alternative approach to UX design whereby the people who touch the product/service experience are brought into the design process at the front end so that they can have a voice in what the product/service should be. These people can include internal business stakeholders (e.g., R&D, Marketing, Sales, Communications, Engineering, etc.) as well as external stakeholders such as users. The key to co-creation is engaging, working with and empowering these people to generate ideas about what the product/service could be and then collaboratively creating concepts with them.
The ideal situation for UX design and co-creation is when designers, researchers, users and business stakeholders all work collaboratively toward a common goal. But this may not be possible when first bringing co-creation into the UX design process. Some companies will want to start with internal co-creation before using external co-creation. Others will want to start with external co-creation and add internal co-creation later.
What does co-creation in the UX design process look like?
Co-creation activities can be conducted in different ways. They can be done as one-on-one interviews or in small group sessions of 3 to 5 people. Larger workshops can also be handled if you break the large group into smaller working groups. The co-creation sessions can be one-time events or you can arrange an ongoing process that takes place weekly or monthly, for example. You can also use mobile methods of co-creation although these are more challenging and should be attempted only after you have experience with using face-to-face methods.
The methods and tools for co-creation differ for various stages of the UX design process. In the early front end when you are exploring future experiences you may want to consider the use of co-creation methods such as image collaging. Inspiration cards and provocation cards are also useful to have on hand to spark the imagination of the co-creators. Using visual stimuli and generative toolkits will help your internal and/or external co-creators to imagine and express their ideas for future experiences.
You can consider having your co-designers help you analyze (i.e., make sense of) the co-creation workshop results. For example, you might have internal stakeholders get involved in making sense of the results of co-creation sessions with end-users. This will help the internal stakeholders be better able to empathize with the users’ needs and dreams for the future.
Later in the process, but still in the front end, co-creation methods can help internal and/or external stakeholders explore alternative scenarios of use. Co-creation methods at this stage might include journey mapping exercises and storyboarding activities using paper-based toolkits. You might also consider having the co-creators act out future scenarios as a fun way for them to explore future experiences.
Once the future scenarios of use have been identified and described, the next phase involves rough prototyping of concepts. Co-creation methods at this stage might include low-fidelity prototyping toolkits such as Velcro-modeling for expressing product concepts. Paper wireframe templates can be used for expressing ideas about the user-product interactions.
After this stage the design process follows the traditional user-centered design process where the users are brought in to iteratively give feedback on higher-fidelity prototypes as the design is developed and refined.
Why would you want to use co-creation in the UX design process?
Co-creation in UX design can accelerate the design process. Inviting the business stakeholders into the front end of the design process will result in more efficient internal communication along the way. And by integrating research and design activities in the co-creation workshops, the overall design process will become shorter.
Co-creation can also help you create the product/service experiences that people really want and need. Inviting the future users into the front end of design will lead to quicker identification of the right products/services. This will lead to a more focused design and development process.
How do you get started in using co-creation in the UX process?
A good way to get started in using co-creation in the UX process is to blend it into your current UX process. You might try a co-creation workshop with users. Or you may prefer to start with internal stakeholders. Bringing both internal and external stakeholders together in a workshop is a more advanced step and one that you will want to try later on in your learning journey.