Full citation

Kaulio, M.A. (1998). Customer, Consumer and User Involvement in Product Development: A Framework and a Review of Selected Methods. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 9(1), 141-149.

Format: Peer-reviewed article

Type: Research — Non-experimental

Experience level of reader: Fundamental

Annotation: This article is a review of the different methods commonly used when integrating customers into the design process of new product development. The seven methods reviewed are; quality function deployment, user-oriented product development, concept testing, beta testing, consumer idealized design, lead user method and participatory ergonomics. The authors present a framework which maps out the different methods along a longitudinal phase of the design process by the type or amount of customer involvement.

Setting(s) to which the reported activities/findings are relevant: Large business, Small business (less than 500 employees)

Knowledge user(s) to whom the piece of literature may be relevant: Manufacturers

Knowledge user level addressed by the literature: Organization

This article uses the Commercial Devices and Services version of the NtK Model

Primary Findings


  • The quality function deployment design process is guided by 'the voice of the customer'. However, the involvement of customers themselves occurs only in the initial phase of the product design process. The customer requirements derived are transformed by a process of deductive analysis, (by the designers) into product characteristics, and eventually into process parameters. Feedback from customers in the latter stages of the development process is not explicitly supported by QFD.
    Literature review.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 4.1
  • The user-oriented product development approach is characterized by: a problem analysis of user/use requirements with a starting point in the use situation, leading to the formulation of 'user requirements'; a transformation of these user requirements into measurable engineering requirements;an iterative design where prototypes are tested by users and modified by designers.
    Literature review
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 4.12, Step 4.11, Step 1.3, Step 1.2, Step 5.3
  • The basic idea of participatory ergonomics is that the workers/users themselves actively partake as designers, generate ideas and design their (own) working environment or living space. By being engaged in the process of change, people can actively contribute to the solution of their own problems.
    Literature review.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Stage 1, Stage 4, Stage 5, Stage 6
  • Usually with beta testing, working prototypes are placed with selected customers in order to test the influence of 'environmental factors', as well as the level of customer satisfaction. The results from these tests are used in order to refine the product further and to eliminate 'bugs'.
    Literature review.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 6.1, Tip 6.4, Step 6.3, Step 6.1
  • The aim is not, primarily, to establish requirements, but to elicitate specific 'solution data' from lead users. The method passes through a four-step process: (1) specifying lead user indicators; (2) identifying lead user groups; (3) generating concepts (products) with lead users; (4) testing lead user concepts on ordinary users.
    Literature review.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Step 1.3, Step 1.2
  • Ideally, the presentation of a concept should offer a realistic description of the proposed product(s), in order to facilitate specific responses from customers. Stimulus materials, such as paper-and-pencil sketches, models, mock-ups and prototypes of the product-to-be, are recommended, in addition to verbal communication when conducting concept testing.
    Literature review.
    Occurrence of finding within the model: Tip 4.13, Step 4.11, Step 1.3, Step 1.2