Speed Dating

Inspired by the framework of its dating-scene namesake, speed dating is a research method utilized to rapidly “speed date” design opportunities with potential users. The power of speed dating lies in exposing people to future design ideas allowing for structured engagements across multiple scenarios.

Common uses of speeding dating include:

  • Creating new understanding about potential design opportunities that should considered and problem areas to be avoided.
  • Identification and prioritization of the user needs and map space for innovation and narrow space for design application (i.e. need validation)
  • Facilitating low-cost engagements to across multiple perspectives and enacted roles to test scenarios (i.e. user enactment)

When to use it?

Look: to surface insights early in the research process and expose real and current needs.

Frame: to force re-evaluation of invalid hypotheses to reinterpret user’s expectations.

Generate: to sample user experience through role-play and scenarios, not opinions on hypothetical situations

Adapt: to focus on application of solutions to address a specific or complex needs by allowing for functioning of multiple variables.

How to do it?

  1. Start with a list of ideas you need to elicit feedback on. You should have exactly one idea for every two people in your workshop. Workshop participants will be divided into idea owners and users.

  2. Idea owners create storyboards for each scenario to elicit an emotional, empathic reaction to the characters for participants to identify with.

  3. Set up concentric circles of chairs facing each other. The idea owner should sit on the outside. They have 60 seconds to explain the storyboard to the user. Users have 2 minutes to provide feedback.

  4. Rotate the inner circle to perform the next speed date.

  5. Collate the feedback from all speed dates for each idea.

Groups may vary to consist of approximately 6 to 20 individuals (depending on number of participants). Speed dating effective tool to use with all participants engaging one another or used by researchers/designers and users.

Regardless of the size of the group, speed dating should take no more than 30 minutes (depending on number of participants) to acquire a number of diverse insights.

Pros and Cons

  • Method can be used to uncover risk factors across a series of related enactments, and focus on efforts on understanding user needs before spending time and effort on costly prototyping and design.
  • Allows for broader perspectives to emerge by allowing to test experiences, not feedback


  • Focusing on need validation and user enactment may push work in unexpected directions.
  • Speed dating is quick and effective at exploring concepts but does not allow for a deep analysis and may require more work to establish root causes.
  • Tool may be too simplistic based on group dynamics

Additional Resources

Bruce Hanington and Bella Martin, Universal Methods of Design: 1000 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions, 2012.

Scoot Davidoff, Min Kyung Lee, Anind K. Dey and John Zimmerman, “Rapidly Exploring Application Design through Speed Dating”, 2007.

Rachel Hinman, “Speed Dating as a Design Method”, http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/speed-dating-as-a-design-method/, 2007