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user research use cases co-creation prototyping & testing
beginner intermediate advanced

ITERATION 1: Understand

Design Thinking Crash Course

user research, beginner

Ideo and are the most commonly known names in the field of Design Thinking, so this is a good place to start. One way in which you can begin is by going through the entire process once, in a crash-course like manner, compressed in a very short amount of time. This Design Thinking Crash Course will help you do just that, so gather your participants and begin the journey! Take a look at this website for everything you need, and this playbook, that serves as an instruction manual to guide you, the facilitator, through the process. However, it is worth to remember that such a short session can only work as an introduction to Design Thinking, since in reality it is important to work “in the field”. Design thinking is not limited to the boundaries of the four walls in which you are conducting workshops. Instead, you need to really get out there, interact and empathize with your users to understand them. For many ideas on how to follow the process in the real world, take a look at the Bootcamp Bootleg cards by dschool, or follow the instructions on the field guide to human-centered design. The latter may be downloaded free of charge, but requires a registration on the website - however, the website is full of useful material so registration is recommended! In the search for even more tools, browse around ideo’s toolkit.

playbook for running a crash-course:
Bootcamp Bootleg:
The field guide to human-centered design:
Ideo toolkit:

Interview: The five why’s or Laddering

user research, beginner

The five why’s (or sometimes also called “Laddering”) is an interview technique leading the researcher and participant to a deeper level of explanation and therefore understanding in their interview. It’s simple: in order to get to the core of the problem, you should ask “why” to every answer provided by the interviewee, five times in a row. The designkit website offers a comprehensive explanation and step-by-step instructions to the methodology.


Photo Journal

user research, intermediate

Get a glimpse into the life of your participants by providing them with a camera and instructions to take photographs of their everyday moments. Collecting these photographs in a Photo Journal and follow-up with an interview to discuss photographs further. The designkit website offers a clear explanation and steps to be followed for this methodology.


Living Lab Methodology Handbook

co-creation, intermediate

Similarly, to the Design Thinking Crash Course, this handbook is providing the framework for an entire innovation journey from start to finish, as well as key principles of Living Labs. Developed by Botnia Living Lab in Sweden, the handbook is based upon results from the Nordic cross-border Living Lab project SmartIES on energy savings. The two ENoLL members: Botnia Living Lab and Wireless Trondheim as well as Living Lab partners from Denmark, Iceland and Lithuania were involved. This handbook includes evaluation of the FormIT Living Lab methodology as well as Living Lab key-principles for Living Lab operations. The resource also includes detailed guidelines for applying the methodology in each phase of the Living Lab operation. Target-users of the handbook are Living Lab practitioners and Living Lab stakeholders. Download the Living Lab methodology handbook and take a look at their website, where more materials (checklists) are provided to guide you through your journey!

Living Lab methodology handbook:!/file/LivingLabsMethodologyBook_web.pdf


user research, intermediate

User research often consists of interviews and surveys where we are relying on words. However, in many cases, an image is worth a thousand words - and images help us in understanding, especially when we are coming from different backgrounds. Collages can be used by the participants in an exercise as described in the website below, or in the form of Visual Surveys, where questions consist of a selection of images rather than words. Take a look at the designkit website for more information and the 3-step instructions.


ITERATION 2: Discover

Game Jams

co-creation, advanced

A Game Jam is a gathering of people for the purpose of planning, designing, and creating one or more games within a short span of time, usually ranging between 24 and 72 hours. Participants are generally made up of programmers, game designers, artists, writers, and others in game development-related fields. A Game Jam may be centered on a theme, which all games developed within the jam must adhere to. The theme is usually announced shortly before the event begins, in order to discourage participants from planning for the event beforehand and from using previously-developed material. In addition, themes are meant to place restrictions on developers, which encourages creativity. Take a look at the Game Jam toolkit for more information on how to organize your own Jam.


Jams are also common practice in other fields as well: think of service jams, design jams or sustainability jams for example!


Game Jam toolkit:

Service Jam:

Design Jam:

Sustainability Jam:

Guided Tour

user research, beginner

Whereas the observation and shadowing techniques often involve researchers trying to seem as “invisible” to the participants, the guided tour methodology allows for close interactions between the researcher and the participant. When conducting a guided tour, the participant is also explaining out loud what they are doing, how they are feeling etc., therefore providing insight to aspects which would not always come across in an observation or shadowing. However, in doing so, watch out for alterations in their actions, as sometimes we are doing things as routine or otherwise semi-unconsciously, in which case these aspects are more likely observed through observation and shadowing!


Observation & Shadowing

user research, intermediate

Observation and Shadowing are common techniques used by designers to form an understanding of their users. When interviewing people, you hear what they think, say, do and even how they feel at times - but all this does not always match up with what they actually do. When observing your participants, you are able to see what people actually do, without imposing an impact on those actions. Observation can take many forms: the researcher may observe from a distance, separating themselves of the situation, or set boundaries or a task to be performed by the subject, or even participate themselves together while observing the participants. In shadowing, researchers are following the participants around for a set period of time, for example, an entire day. In doing so, you may or may not interfere at times by asking some questions as an ad-hoc interview throughout the process. Explore the methodology on this website, and also take a look at the collection of other methodologies provided by designingwithpeople.


Observation & shadowing website:

Designingwithpeople methods:

Empathy Prototype

user research, intermediate

Whereas most of the prototyping techniques described in this toolkit are more commonly included in the dedicated prototyping section, the empathy prototype can form part of the very first phases of your journey, as it has to do with empathizing with the user. In an empathy prototype, you are quite literally putting yourself in the shoes of the user, forming an understanding of their needs by experiencing situations from their point of view. This can mean blindfolding yourself when considering the blind, or making sure you don’t forget to take your vitamins at exact hours when designing for someone who is dependent on daily medication. Start by taking a look at these best practices when prototyping for empathy, and when you’ve gathered your insights, don’t forget to involve your actual users in validating your findings!


Best Practices when Prototyping for Empathy:



User innovation toolbox

user research, beginner

Designed by imec Living Labs, the User Innovation Toolbox is a set of methods and tools to be consulted when looking for an appropriate and inspiring way of doing user-centric innovation research. It is a collection of over 80 user-centric innovation research methods suited for agile innovation development environments and multidisciplinary R&D teams. Take a look at this toolbox, which organizes a wide variety of approaches from different backgrounds (design studies, market research, social sciences, …) in order to provide the right tools for the right questions. This methodology can be used at different stages of the innovation development process.

User innovation toolbox:

User persona

use cases, beginner

Personas are the most common point to start your innovation journey. They help to gather your research insights in the form of a persona, a tangible outcome of your findings thus far. Although important in the beginning of the project, personas are used throughout the whole innovation process - they are also prominent in market research, for example, when you’ve already got a working prototype and are working on a go-to-market strategy. In this template, the 10 elements of a user persona are highlighted in a how-to guide for creating your own user persona.


Design Brief

use cases, intermediate

Once you have conducted some research, formed insights, and identified the insights which are most valuable for you going forward, it’s time to formulate a design brief. The design brief converges all the collected information from the discover phase and compresses it in the form of a key insight, something that you have decided, based on your experiences, that is worth exploring further. Typically, this is the brief of the client given to the design team, but can also serve as a useful tool within your own team to ensure you’re all on the same page. For a step-by-step instruction to design brief writing, take a look at this website, and formulate your own using this template.


Design Brief Template:

Empathy map

use cases, intermediate

This empathy map is a useful yet simple template for creating your persona. A much cleaner version of the persona map as described below, the empathy map is a useful tool to feed in to your persona, or to work on its own as the first version of your persona in the very beginning phases of your journey - you’ll have time to go more into details of your persona in the later stages, while the empathy map gathers the most essential to-knows at the initial stage of your project. For a detailed explanation into the why’s and how’s of empathy mapping, take a look at this website, and start building your own empathy map using this template.


Template pdf:

Validated personas

user research, advanced

Personas are often created in workshops, or closed-door team meetings, but it is important to remember that as important as it is to base your project around personas, it is equally important to validate these personas. Personas created in workshops for example are based on assumptions which do not always correspond to the real world situation. Personas should be based on your qualitative and quantitative research results. An example of this is represented by designingwithpeople, who provide on their website a set of 10 personas already backed up by research. The five categories of personas, for which both male and female personas have been created, are: vision, hearing, mobility, dexterity and cognition.


Customer journey

use cases, intermediate

Customer journeys are a very common tool used in the user-centered design field and can therefore be seen as an important part of the process. As it is commonly used, it is also commonly adapted and there are many different types of tools out there for creating customer journey. In essence, the customer journey comprises of a story, from the viewpoint of the end user, in how they experience and interact with the product, service, situation etc. Each touchpoint is thoroughly investigated and mapped out in the customer journey map. For more information about the different steps involved in mapping your journey, take a look at this website, and use this interactive customer journey map template, ready for you to map out the journey your end-users experience with your solution. Don’t forget to validate your findings with your actual end-users as you have reached some interesting insights.


Customer journey map template:


How might we

use cases, beginner

To frame your ideation session, try the “how might we” approach. Start describing your ideas by beginning your sentences with “how might we...”, starting with an open-ended problem statement or insight. The idea behind this methodology is to explore the different points of view, question your assumptions or even explore the possibilities of your assumptions being reversed. This tool is especially useful when applied in connection with other tools, such as personas and scenarios. The power of the tool is explained on this website, and you can use this worksheet to guide your own “how might we” session.



How Might We worksheet:

Brainstorming rules

co-creation, beginner

In ideation sessions you are looking to get lots of ideas. From a large amount of ideas, you can identify some that are better than others, some that are more predictable than others, and some that may even seem completely crazy at first glance. But make sure not to discard them without digging in deeper, and always build on each others ideas, to get deeper into the root of the idea and everything that it could reach. For brainstorming rules, take a look at this website.




Idea Dashboard

co-creation, intermediate

Collecting ideas is important, but making sure everybody understands the ideas is also important. Materiality has been proven as an important feature of communicating ideas, especially when working with people from different , such as designers, developers and managers, but also with end-users with different experiences. By using material objects, drawings of low-fi prototypes, you will all see the same thing - whereas explaining something in words can form different images in different minds.


Idea dashboard:

Brains behaviour and design

use cases, advanced

A comprehensive set of tools and methodologies into behavioural economics are provided by the Brains behaviour and design website. These tools are especially useful in understanding the behaviour of your users, citizens, participants. For example, the reference cards is a card deck that provides information about common behaviours and expectations of people. The concept ecosystem poster showcases the relationships between drivers behind a decision, and decision making factors. There are three tools for designing for behaviour change, called “irrational situation guides”: introduce new routines, understand trade-offs, and investigate mismatches between future intentions and behaviour. The strategy cards give quick reminders and food-for-thought when thinking about your strategy, and the losses and gains worksheet & cards help you to think about today and the future in terms of your losses and gains.



Reference cards:

The concept ecosystem poster:

Introduce new routines:

Understand trade-offs:

Future intentions vs. behaviour:

Strategy cards:

Losses and gains worksheet & cards:


ITERATION 5: Conceptualize

Co-Creative Workshop Methodology

co-creation, advanced

The Co-Creative Workshop Methodology is designed by U4IoT Consortium partner - Stembert Design - for Internet of Things (IoT) related contexts. As a methodology, the Co-Creative Workshops are among others part of the Coordination and Support Action (CSA) U4IoT to support LSP projects participating in the European Large Scale Pilot (LSP) Programme.


The Co-Creative Workshop Methodology enables you to engage end-users and stakeholders within your projects and co-create IoT solutions in only a couple of hours. The Co-Creative Workshop Handbook provides you with guidelines for the organisation, facilitation, analysis and documentation of Co-Creative Workshops. The methodology consists of a four phase co-creative cycle, with guidelines for Co-analysis, Co-design, Co-evaluation and Co-implementation. The complementary Co-Creative Workshop Toolkit contains materials for organising workshops around five topics - Smart Mobility, Smart Entertainment, Smart Agriculture, Smart Cities and Smart Health. Empowered by the toolkit end-users can communicate on an expert level, whilst experts are enabled to emphasise with the needs of end-users. The insights elicited through a Co-Creative Workshop are ideal to inform your design- and development processes.


U4IoT supports LSP partners in the European LSP Programme to implement the Co-Creative Workshop Methodology into their projects by providing hands-on training sessions. These training sessions enable LSP partners to autonomously organise, facilitate, analyse and document Co-Creative Workshops throughout their projects.


Stembert Design:

European Large Scale Pilot (LSP) Programme:


Co-Creative Workshop Handbook: Not yet available online

Co-Creative Workshop Toolkit: Not yet available online


The Bristol Approach Framework

co-creation, beginner

This framework has been tried and tested by the KWMC in Bristol: The Bristol Approach: a way of working that aims to understand the issues people care about. It provides you with a real-life case study and a framework for engaging local people actively involved at the community level in design, testing and evaluation. The Bristol Approach framework contains six phases: framing, design, deployment, orchestration, outcome and identification. For a description of the project, including a video, take a look at their website. For more details on the six phases, take a look at The Bristol Approach Booklet.



The Bristol Approach Booklet:

Tips & tricks

use cases, advanced

Since early 2014 Bristol Living Lab (hosted by KWMC) has been working with academics and local residents to identify some of the key questions, issues and considerations that impact the work of community activists. Building on the 20 years of experience and expertise of KWMC and following some key workshops they organised, Bristol Living Lab developed the ideas into sets of 20 recommendations. These recommendations are inspired by the work and advice of local activists: ‘Tips and Tricks for community activists’ and ‘Tips and Tricks for Living Labs’. They have supported representatives of other Living Labs and international delegations to explore how they can develop positive relationships with communities, create an environment of trust and openness, and demonstrate the impact of their work. Tips and Tricks can be used at different stages of innovation development processes. Take a look at the Tips and Tricks for more information and contact details to purchase the cards.



Tips and tricks:  

Six Thinking Hats

co-creation, beginner

A classic ideation technique where six participants each adopt their own point of view (a function, or a role) by thinking about a problem. Each participant is given a hat, which means that they are the driver for a certain type of thinking within the team: white hat calls out for information and facts, the yellow hat symbolizes optimism and brightness, the black hat is the devil’s advocate, the red hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition, the green hat focuses on creativity and new ideas and possibilities, whilst the blue hat manages the thinking process. For more information on this methodology, visit their website.


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