What is inclusive design? UX Question #45

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Anthony from Indianapolis, Indiana asks: What is inclusive design?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Anthony. This is UX Question number 45 and I am Ben Judy.

What is inclusive design? Well, I’ll tell you in less than three minutes, but stick around at the end of this episode, because I have an exciting announcement about a deeper dive I’m providing on this very topic.

Here’s the quick answer. Inclusive design is the practice of designing products, services, and environments to provide a good user experience for as many people as possible.

It means that you, as the designer, go out of your way to understand and empathize with the diverse ways that people might have an experience your product because every human being is a unique individual with different abilities, perspectives, needs, and expectations.

One of the more obvious examples of inclusive design is paying attention to color and size of text to ensure that it is easy to read, especially for people with poor vision. I wear eyeglasses, so I certainly appreciate it when designers strive for this.

But inclusive design is not just about accessibility factors or designing for people with various physical disabilities. It’s much broader than that. Consider the challenge of designing a good website or mobile app for a broad user base of people of different cultural backgrounds, who speak different languages, and who live very different lifestyles.

A commitment to inclusive design is about creating solutions that work for a wide variety of people, not just people like me.

Note that I stopped short of saying that the goal is to design one solution that works great for everyone. That’s actually a related concept called universal design. And there is some debate about whether that’s actually possible. There are too many diversity factors. Humanity is just too varied for us to actually design one product that provides a good experience for everyone, without adaptation or alternatives.

So, inclusive design involves prioritization. We select certain traits or aspects of people whom we want to design for, perhaps for ethical reasons—because those people have historically been overlooked by designers.

The great enemy of inclusive design is bias. My biases prevent me from designing great experiences for people who are different from me. The bad news is, we have all have individual biases—it’s an inescapable part of being human. To make matters worse, many of our biases are unconscious. We don’t even know what they are!

Fortunately, there are resources like the Cognitive Bias Codex—link in the description—that can help us learn more about our biases, and that’s the first step toward designing around them.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: Why do UX designers change employers so often?

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