Inclusivity isn’t a new word to most of us — but did you know about its applicability in design?
Inclusive design is a design practice in which products and services are created to be accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their age, gender, or ability. It places people at the center of the design process, assisting designers in determining how to best meet human needs in order to achieve universal usability. Designing for inclusion highlights the opportunity that product designers have to help people from all walks of life; designing for the disabled is, in essence, designing for everyone.
What does inclusive design mean?
It is the continuing process of creating solutions that take into account the perspectives, experiences, and situations of people who have previously been ignored, and eliminating points of exclusion.
Let’s look at the various circumstances that can lead to someone being included or excluded to get a better understanding of this. Race, gender, mobility, and age may be examples of physical, permanent, and non-situational factors that are part of how someone interacts with or interprets design. For example, let’s say there’s a poster at a community centre for a racially diverse neighbourhood promoting a new knitting class. What if the image on that poster shows a group of people that all share one specific race exercising together? Do you think people from other races would feel as if they are welcome in the new class?
By simply using a photo of a racially diverse group of people, you’ve designed for inclusivity.
When designing, we should also consider the viewer’s possible stress levels, emotional state and other situational factors that may alter how they interact with the design. Providing captions and closed captions on a video, for example, can assist both the hearing-impaired and the hearing-abled when watching the same film in a noisy environment. Larger text size, which caters to those with vision impairment, can also benefit someone driving a car.
By considering who your audience is, thinking about diversity, and making changes that cater to as wide a cross-section of people as possible, you can ensure your brand’s designs are inclusive.
The process of inclusive design
The inclusive design approach is not always straightforward. Because the goal is to include those who have previously been excluded, it ultimately depends on your audience, product, and marketing plan history. However, here are some pointers on how to identify inclusive actions that will work for you.
- Recognise exclusion – designing for inclusivity not only opens up our products and services to more people, it also reflects how people really are. All humans grow and adapt to the world around them and we want our designs to reflect that. Something as simple as showing someone making a purchase from their phone rather than on a computer can help with inclusivity – and keep your brand relevant.
- Solve for one, extend to many – everyone has abilities, as well as limits to those abilities. Designing for people with permanent disabilities, such as those who are hearing or visually imparied, actually results in designs that benefit people universally.
For example, voice over technology enables any user, including those with low vision or no vision at all, to utilize an iPad or iPhone. However, voice over technology adds something for sighted individuals in situations where they must keep an eye on what they are doing: It enables people to listen to directions while driving or a recipe while cooking.
- Learn from diversity – Human beings are the real experts in adapting to diversity. Inclusive design puts people in the centre from the very start of the process, and those fresh, diverse perspectives are the key to true insight.
Most brands conduct market research to better understand their target audience, and this is ostensibly the group of people for whom your design is being created. But it’s important to understand that this information is unavoidably fallible—target audience research is based on data as well as projections, which can give you an indication of what assumptions you have about your demographic. The first step in challenging these assumptions is to identify them.
If you’re a sneaker brand, you might assume your audience is made up of people who enjoy running. You likely think of them as fit, in their 30s, and health-conscious. Because of this, your designs likely include images of people who match that description. But consider people who are in the process of changing their diets or fitness patterns, or who may be elderly and need comfortable shoes, or who use a wheelchair – they might like or already use your sneakers, too. By showcasing a more diverse range of people, you’ll not only design for inclusivity but may even boost sales because of it.
Practice inclusive design on a regular basis
With inclusive design, a varied group of individuals experience a product in a variety of ways while also experiencing a sense of belonging. This broadens the product’s appeal and simultaneously elevates the product and its users to the top of the priority list.
At the end of the day, inclusive design will give everyone a smooth user experience, regardless of whether they have a temporary or permanent impairment. In turn, this can help brands reach previously untapped customer segments. It’s a win-win, really.
Want advice on inclusive design but don’t know where to turn to? Write to us at [email protected]