Imagine you want to learn about the pain points of commuting to work through a survey. If you only survey people living in major cities, the results might be “subway and buses are packed.” If you only survey people living in suburbs, the results might be related to traffic jams. In conducting user research, you should be intentional about who is included, and who might be left out. Considering diversity and inclusion early in the research process will lead to more inclusive designs and products down the line.
Consider various users who may use the product and how and when they can be involved in the design process. In some cases, this may mean being humble and admitting that it may be best to empower communities or groups to solve their own problems, rather than designing on their behalf.
User research can help give the people you are designing for more agency, and there are many different ways of thinking about how and when to involve users:
Accessibility refers to designing devices, products, and environments such that individuals with disabilities or sensory impairments can successfully use them. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) break down accessibility into four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
Inclusive design is a discipline of design that emphasizes designing products and services that work for people of all demographics, perspectives, and abilities, with a focus on those who may have been historically marginalized or excluded.
Universal design focuses on creating one experience that can include as many people as possible. The principles of universal design consider how designs can be useful to people of diverse abilities, or adapt flexibly to users of different preferences and abilities.
User-Centered Design (UCD):
User-centered design is a design methodology consisting of an iterative process that puts users at the center of product development and involves them in the design from the beginning. UCD processes generally involve the following activities: understand, specify, design, and evaluate.
Some further examples of inclusive design methodologies include:
- Design justice: This approach “rethinks design processes, centers people who are normally marginalized by design, and uses collaborative, creative practices to address the deepest challenges our communities face.”
- Value-sensitive design: This approach to design aims to center human values and ethics in the design process and acknowledges the potential trade-offs and potential unintentional results tied to our design choices.
- Participatory design: Also known as co-design, this design approach aims to involve users or stakeholders in actively designing solutions for themselves.
Think about answers to the following questions to check your understanding of design for diversity and inclusion.
What is the term for design that considers people of different abilities?
Which design discipline focuses on creating one experience that can include as many people as possible?