The Art of Listening

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  • Title: The Art of Listening: Engaging Ageing Individuals in the Design of Online Services
  • Author(s): Vikki du Preez, Retha de la Harpe
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Design Principles & Practices
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Design in Society
  • Keywords: Collaborative Persona, Service Design, Ageing User, User-Centered Innovation
  • Volume: 13
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2019
  • ISSN: 2325-1328 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2325-1360 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: du Preez, Vikki, and Retha de la Harpe. 2019. "The Art of Listening: Engaging Ageing Individuals in the Design of Online Services." The International Journal of Design in Society 13 (1): 35-51. doi:10.18848/2325-1328/CGP/v13i01/35-51.
  • Extent: 17 pages


In order to design more engaging interactions and online services, it is imperative to understand the real needs and perceptions of users. User-centered design approaches represent an iterative process during which users contribute to the shaping of the design challenge, as well as the problem-solving process. A candid review of user input and acknowledgement of user contribution when designing online service solutions reflect a shift toward user-centered innovation. But how do designers ensure they listen to the needs, perceptions, hopes, dreams, and fears of users, instead of just hearing what aligns to their own understanding? In the case of ageing individuals, this challenge is more nuanced, as designers often do not share experiences or a world view with this user group. This article outlines a collaborative persona method, co-created with ageing South African participants. The main research question was how the process of designing online services with ageing users could be supported. Following the prototyping of the method, it was explored in two workshops with ageing participants. Interactions during the session revealed a need to reimagine how user needs are captured by designers during collaborative sessions. Findings indicate that the collaborative persona method facilitated the gathering of more considered comments and authentic insights from ageing users. The approach also allowed for the capture of participants’ discussions, which allows designers to revisit and reflect on the interaction multiple times during the subsequent design process. In this way, all stakeholders in the design process could listen to users instead of relying on data captured by an intermediary. The article describes the study and resulting collaborative persona method through the co-creation process and pilot workshops, as well as implications for future practice.