An Inclusive User Research Practice

Keywords: User research, facilitation, toolkit design
Role: Self-led project which started during my dissertation, and continued while I was an intern at STBY.


During my dissertation –– making things with newly arrived migrants and long-time residents of Coventry –– I needed to facilitate group sessions with people who don’t necessarily share a common language. I realized that many user research methods common in group workshops aren’t inclusive.

Mapping the ethics of a participatory practice


Over the last year and a half, I’ve tested different user research methods and tools, contributing to my understanding of which activities are more or less inclusive and for whom. In addition, I’ve developed and tested new methods –– particularly for facilitating research with participants whose native language differs from the facilitator’s. A few of these are shown below, I plan to write more about this soon. Note: the “building kits” in the last 2 pictures we’re developed during this project with my team.

Using photo “cones” to facilitate a session without words Testing icons to improve understanding of the consent process Storyboarding and drawing are methods which require no verbal or written communication Using the building kits to describe feelings through objects

I’ve also interviewed and conducted surveys with design researchers, user researchers and designers who facilitate workshops, to learn more about their hesitations, failures and successes in conducting research with participants who hold specific access needs.

“We haven’t considered enough how we can recruit and facilitate sessions with people with disabilities… I think we should be more aware of how we can be more flexible.” - A design researcher


My learnings so far, include:


In early 2019, I developed a toolkit, or a series of practical worksheets, to help guide designers and researchers towards thinking more about inclusive practices within their projects.

“The last few [worksheets] especially brought up some good insights into how to frame our questions going into our next workshop […] from the ones we went through, they were very clear and easy to follow.” - Product Design Student

The latest form of this research was the development a set of open-sourced principles: 9 key considerations for inclusive research. This list is meant to be a useful resource for researchers and designers approaching the topic of inclusive research. It’s also my way of learning in the open. Earlier this year, this work was presented at Policy Lab in the UK Cabinet Office and for STBY, a design research consultancy.