Design Methods #38 – Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing happens when a “crowd” or group of volunteers help to solve or complete a task or project. Crowdsourcing is an approach that can be used to collect large quantities of data or solutions from a range of people outside your organisation in a short amount of time.

Crowdsourcing works by leveraging “weak ties” through decentralised organisational structures that bring together testers, users and collaborators to share ideas (prototypes) and suggest potential solutions to a design problem. Micro tasks can be shared with volunteers to provide a focus for solving specific parts of a problem through a range of potential solutions, usually accomplished through a common platform and often completed within a very short time of setting the parameters of the problem. Participants typically receive compensation either through direct remuneration or indirect collection of “points” or “tokens”.

Time and cares need to be taken to ensure that the right team are used to work on the challenge. Typically, simpler and uncomplicated tasks are more likely to get more people involved in solving them, especially when they have a clear and unambiguous answer or solution. This also avoids volunteers “playing” the system, because tasks are clear and good and bad responses are easy to identify.

Crowdsourcing is particularly valuable for designers who value quantitative data and large samples, focused on user-centric evaluation. While crowdsourcing can provide the opportunity to gather responses from a large and diverse community, there may be little information on the profile of the individual members of the “crowd” and their expertise and agenda. This means that in practice designers often triangulate the results from a “crowd” with other information and sources to ensure that chosen solutions best reflect the needs of the original design challenge.


Universal Methods of Design by Martin & Hanington

Crowdsourcing: Why the power of the crowd is driving the future of business by Jeff Howe

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