Author: Miroslava Jovicic, HEAD OF DESIGN, MIMI HEARING TECHNOLOGIES
Over the last few years, there is a growing focus on inclusion in digital solutions. There is a need for acceptance, empathy and most importantly equality. Unfortunately with many digital products, inclusion is still just a design afterthought.
At Mimi, we are guided by our core values when we design user experience. We celebrate the diversity of people, as a part of the beauty of being human. It is our responsibility to create inclusive solutions that give everyone a great user experience regardless of their capabilities, gender, ethnicity, language or any other differences.
Below you can find steps that we follow in order to evolve our design process, have different perspectives, and make progress towards equality with every design decision we make.
1. YOU ARE NOT YOUR USERS
Knowing how people will use something is essential. —Donald Norman
Digital solutions that work for you are not necessarily right for your users. Your actions, decisions, behaviour and preferences might not be the same as your users. To avoid this bias, you need to learn about your users, involve them in the design process, and interact with them consistently along the way. This can reveal fundamental flaws in the assumptions made and give you the insight to create something that both delights and engages the user.
2. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Disability is not just a health problem. It is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives. —World Health Organization
In her book Mismatch, Kat Holmes explains how even when we have the best intention, designing for disability or “other people” separates designers from the people who receive design. Designing for “other people” mindset distances you from the people who receive your design, as you can make incorrect assumptions based on exclusion habits and biases.
To avoid this bias, we have to shift our perspective to see disability as context dependent rather than as an attribute of a person. It is an imparity between the needs of the individual and the product, service, environment or social structure.
3. CONSIDER EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF DESIGN ON USERS
Everything has a personality: everything sends an emotional signal. Even where this was not the intention of the designer, the people who view the website infer personalities and experience emotions. — Don Norman, Grand Old Man of User Experience
As a designer, you always focus on users’ needs. In order to meet them, solutions you are creating must be functional. If the user cannot achieve their goals and complete tasks successfully, they certainly won’t spend much time with an application. However, we should never forget that people are not made only of logic and actions but also feelings, intuition, emotions and memories. As rational as we may like to think we are, emotions are at the heart of how we interpret reality.
Creating loveable medical products—products that create a positive experience, promote positive self-image and that give patients joy—is the design challenge of the modern era. — Stuart Karten
When designing for digital healthcare solutions, feelings like fear, embarrassment, isolation and hope play a role in how people perceive their experiences. It is crucial that through user experience you offer emotional support to patients.
4. RECOGNISE EXCLUSION
“Exclusion is concrete and specific, and can often be traced back to an identifiable source. This makes it a meaningful starting point for inclusive design.” — Kat Holmes
Inclusion is difficult to define and even harder to measure, as it is often invisible to those who enjoy it. Vernā Myers, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at online entertainment giant Netflix, is credited with coining the phrase “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.” Inclusion reflects the absence of negative incidents that make one feel excluded.
Therefore to understand inclusion and our progress towards equality, we have to look at exclusion. Exclusion is much more easier to be identified and we all know how it feels when we are left out. By starting from exclusion and learning how to recognize it, we can see where a user experience works well for some people but might cause frustrations for others.
5. DON’T CREATE SOLUTIONS TO FIT THE “AVERAGE PERSON”
Designing inclusively doesn’t mean you’re making one thing for all people. You’re designing a diversity of ways for everyone to participate in an experience with a sense of belonging. — Microsoft Inclusive Toolkit Manual
Over the years, we were thought to design for the average person. The average person is just a myth and doesn’t actually exist. In his article, When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages, Todd Rose gives a great example why designing for “average” does not work and why it is crucial to include possibilities for personalising and customising solutions to fit the individual needs of the people it serves.
6. LEARN FROM HUMAN DIVERSITY
If you want diversity of thought, you have to bring in people around you who have diverse experiences.— Victoria L. Brescoll, Yale School of Management
One of the most important ways to help design a better and more diverse world, is to force yourself to question your bias in every step of the process. Challenge what you think about your users and your design. Airbnb developed a great toolkit, another lens – A research tool for conscientious creatives, which provides a set of questions that provoke thought about inclusivity and accessibility in design.
It is also crucial to bring a diverse group of people to test your product. Different points of view can assist in reducing your own biases and help inspire better solutions.
7. DESIGN WITH, NOT FOR, PEOPLE
When designing inclusive digital solutions, nothing should be decided without contribution from the people that will be affected by that solution. Inclusive design comes from including diverse people in design decisions. Designing with users, and not for them, will give you the possibility to build digital tools to better address the specific context, culture, behaviors and expectations of the people who will directly interact with the product.
It is especially important to seek the perspective of people who are the most excluded by the solution, as they will have the greatest insights into how to shift the design towards being more inclusive. Designing together means partnering with users throughout the project lifecycle, and continuously gathering and incorporating users’ feedback.
8. SOLVE FOR ONE, EXTEND TO MANY
The last principle of the Microsoft Inclusive Toolkit Manual explains that designing for people with permanent disabilities benefits a much larger number of people that might have temporary or situational limitations. Being mindful of all the constraints people can experience with our product and what makes them feel excluded, helps us create scalable solutions that can serve more people in different ways.
People are seeking out products that are not just simple to use but a joy to use. — Bruce Claxton, Professor, Design Management at Savannah College of Art and Design.
Failing to consider inclusivity leaves out millions of people from using your product. Designing inclusive solutions is win-win for both users and business. It will expand the product’s reach and spark innovation and growth. Building accessible and inclusive digital solutions is not as expensive nor hard as we think. All it takes is starting with changing your perspectives and your mindset.