Asking participants to give consent for design research is an important but difficult part of the research process. At the moment consent forms are long documents that need to be signed by participants before the research can take place. They don’t give participants the time or tools to understand what’s happening to their data and make an informed decision about whether to take part.

If the consent form lived on a unique url participants could read the information at their own pace wherever was convenient for them. This would create a digital audit trail for ensuring the consent forms were being shared at appropriate times. It would also create a digital proof of when and how permission was given.

Designing consent as an interactive experience could make the process a lot more empowering for participants. Giving permission to share your data shouldn’t be a binary yes or no decision. There might be particular things a participant doesn’t feel comfortable sharing or methods of recording they are not comfortable with.

What if participants could track the outcomes of the project?

Most of the time, the relationship between the participant and researcher finishes at the end of the research session. It would be great if participants could see the outcomes of the project and see what their data contributed to make. This would help convey the value in doing user research and would give people the opportunity to revoke the consent if they change their mind.

There’s more work to be done

These are a few ideas imagining what a more interactive, dynamic and empowering experience might look like for people taking part in research. Developing new patterns for consent within the context of our design research could lead to evolving patterns for other sectors as well.

We’re hoping to develop and test these ideas. If that’s something you’re interested in helping with, get in touch: [email protected]