The majority of companies are not currently using participatory design in their systems design process. In fact, user happiness with a final product rarely even comes up in the teaching of software design. Harold Salzman and Stephen R. Rosenthal conducted a study in 1994 on "50 textbooks on applications software design to examine the nature of user considerations in design methodologies."
In their study, they examined the sections in each book that referred to users for the types of user consideration in design that were being promoted. American authors wrote all the textbooks since many Europeans approach software quite differently. Of the 28 books they found which noted user considerations, only 17 had "more than a passing reference to user consideration in design." They found that these 17 books did all note the importance of designing software that meets user requirements, but only 6 mentioned specific reasons for difficulties in designing user-effective software. Two examples of problems identified was that "users don't know in detail what they want until they see it and there was a communication gap because verbal communication has its limits." Thus even these 6 books failed to understand the importance of the proper communication before the design process even begins.
The ETHICS and JAD methodologies, discussed below are two ways in which participatory design is being used in US companies.
A. ETHICS methodology
The ETHICS (Effective Technical and Human Implementation of Computer-based Systems) methodology is now being used by many firms in the UK and some manufacturers in the US (Mumford, 1983). It was developed to maximize human gains while still successfully integrating the objectives of the organization. ETHICS identifies goals from various viewpoints and encourages cooptimization of social and technical systems (Macaulay). It is essentially a means to improve efficiency and create a work environment that provides greater satisfaction to the user. The most beneficial advantage with this design methodology is that it enables users to become partners in the design process and to develop strategies to achieve their own objectives. If followed correctly, the ETHICS produces well-designed systems in which technology and the work organization can reinforce each other. However ETHICS takes time to implement, as it requires design group members to learn new analytical and design skills. As systems developers become increasingly busy, the ability of users to have the capacity to "manage their own change" becomes a valuable resource to the organization.
Joint Application Design (JAD), established in the 70's by IBM is a variation of PD, referred to as the "American approach of PD." The JAD approach views systems design to be a joint venture among any people who need to make decisions affecting multiple areas of an organization (Adrian et al, 1997). It faces the same obstacles to successful implementation, but differs slightly from European PD in that while PD emphasizes the social aspect of collaboration with the user, JAD is based on functional focus with fixed requirements, communication through documentation, and rules of work.