What is Inclusive Design? Why Does it Matter? Why is it Relevant?

Ever wondered why it took until 2015 for Emoji’s to include a wider range of skin-tones? Or why it took up until 2019 for Emoji’s to include options for a wheelchair, hearing aid and white cane users?

Ever wondered why it took until 2015 for Emoji’s to include a wider range of skin-tones? Or why it took up until 2019 for Emoji’s to include options for a wheelchair, hearing aid and white cane users? It all, or mostly, boils down to inclusive design, albeit, a lack of, in the tech industry.

Initially, a term coined throughout the study of design, the concept itself has quite a substantial background. While there’s varying explanations of the term, the core basis, and its purpose remains a common factor; enabling the engagement of all.

We’ve found throughout time that many products and services fail to provide seamless usability for individuals (see Infrared gate, photo-apps, stock photos, apple watch gate and more). It’s important for both the providers of products and services to ensure the range of users that can, with satisfaction, utilise products is as broad as possible. The question is, however, how do we, as either individual entrepreneurs, small businesses, large businesses and general members of the design process ensure this?

It all starts with the innovation and development process of products and services. As an example, let’s consider the process of building an app for digital banking (picture a service similar to Monzo or N26). Now, we know the beginning of any innovation and design process starts with the innovators, the designers, the developers of the ideas and those who ensure the project, in the form of the service or product, is built effectively and seamlessly comes together.

In the case of an app and roughly speaking, this would likely include a product owner (responsible for adding value to the product), a scrum master or project manager (responsible for owning the ‘process’ and overseeing communication between the product owner and developers) and lastly, the developers, those who actually “build” the app.

Taking this into account, the delivery of an app has a large network of stakeholders. If we can ensure this network is as effectively diverse, we can ensure that ideas related to the app or product itself are inclusive of a diverse range of perspectives. It’s not necessary to provide the exact same user experience for every user of an app. Acknowledging that slight adjustments are required depending on the user’s characteristics is almost vital to achieving a universally successful app. An example would be ensuring that an app is adjustable to the needs of users that are visually impaired or may have a hearing impairment. The reality is, not EVERY user of an app has ‘perfect’ vision or hearing. A service that is meant to be used by all, should also be usable by all and this is exactly why we should recognise the importance of representing all during every step of design and production.

Individuals of different backgrounds inhibit different experiences and can, therefore, raise a better variety of requirements. These contributions can assist in creating an improved, well-rounded product or service.

In an age where we’re gradually grasping the concept of why representation matters, we need to ensure we’re all on the same mark and on the same board, the tech industry proves an interesting example, almost a contradiction in a sense as we view technology as a martyr of progression, yet somehow, it is an industry that is still behind in other aspects and has a very long way to go.

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