Critical user forums: an effective user research method for inclusive design

Hua Dong, P. John Clarkson, Julia Cassim, Simeon Keates

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Inclusive or universal design is about designing more accessible products and services for the widest possible range of users, regardless of age and capabilities. It requires better understanding and empathy with all potential users. Traditional user research methods are limited in accommodating a wide range of users and hence there is a need to find more appropriate methods of user research for inclusive design. This paper describes a method called 'Critical User Forums' which involves direct interaction between design teams and a mixed group of users with severe disabilities. The evaluation of the effectiveness of this method for inclusive design is based on the interviews of eight UK design consultancies that took part in a design competition, emphasising inclusive design and involving users, known as the 'DBA Design Challenge'. The contribution of critical users to the DBA projects is discussed and the design teams' viewpoints on such user involvement in the process are investigated. The paper concludes that Critical User Forums provide an ideal chance for designers to understand a wider range of users through direct interaction with them, thus helping designers build empathy with all potential users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalThe Design Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Inclusive design
  • Critical users
  • User research


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