Inclusive digital design, Part 2
As already promised, we will be talking a lot more about the responsibility and challenges of digital design on a meta-level, especially when it comes to inclusion. Why? Well. Design is a lot more than just making aesthetic products.
Many design products that we make are or will be used frequently in people's everyday lives. They are not just tools that make our lives easier, but also shape and define the way we think, act and look at the world and the people around us. Design has the power to influence the perspectives that we have, it can even change them for good - if we allow it to.
A couple of weeks ago, we already went into a first reality check on how inclusive our designs actually are and, most importantly, what inclusive design means. In that case, we mainly focused on handicaps or any kind of physical limitations that might influence the user experience of a web or app project. Here at Studio Lenzing we find this to be a quite crucial part of good and honest design.
Being open for the diversity of all humankind
Yet, diversity and inclusion are much more than "just" including people with special needs and desires. Design for handicapped is important, but just like that is looking out for the diversity of human life and make sure that all voices are heard.
Inclusive design should not only consider making the user experience as inclusive as possible but also think about how things like age, sexuality, gender, size, ethnicities, education and income levels etc. are presented diversely throughout the design and language.
Of course, this always comes down to the product and target group, but we still think that us designers have the power to shape an inclusive future.
The responsibility of good design
So, yes, we are talking about being and acting responsibly. These days, we are still surrounded by products that only speak for a limited range of people. So, what shall we be doing more of?
01/ Freedom of sex
One of the simplest but still a great deal too much forgotten thing is gendering properly. We surely do know that people are starting to get tired of the subject, still, especially throughout our native language (German), there are so many terms that refer to the male sex only. Of course, it is not enough to include women, but to actually allow the freedom of sex throughout the whole digital design, be it through text, colors or pictures shown.
02/ Abandon existing stereotypes
We wish it were different, but truth be told is that there is still a lot of bad practice in the world of design when it comes to using old-fashioned demographics and made-up personality traits. We think it to be quite counterproductive, because taking "mr. average" as the perfect target group will always lead to biased thinking, fixed persona's and the marginalization of people which is preventing any change in people's perspectives and habits. Of course, it is not easy when working with a client that has always been doing just that. It takes some risk and courage to do so, but we highly suggest to talk the talk and discuss widening the perspective of any project with your partner. You can point out that in place of relying solely on flat characteristics, motivate them or start finding ways to describe personas that don’t rely on demographics — and instead dig into deeper user motivations.
03/ Always consider the bigger picture
Most of the times, design thinking is hyper-focused on solving just a few key problems for a special target group (and in some cases that's exactly what's needed), but there are many downstream effects these solutions might have on a higher level. So even when working on a small product / small audience, we should not forget to think and discuss holistically and picture the project within the whole complex of human life. In the end, there is always the chance of a domino effect which could be both positive or negative. The outcome is up to us. We can choose, and we choose to make a good difference.
04/ Listen & learn
We certainly don't have all the answers when it comes to inclusion. And it surely is quite easy to talk about it when somehow fitting into the mainstream of people and not being directly affected by exclusion. Which leads us to the most important aspect: listen and learn. Talk to all kind of people, include a more diverse range of people to your user testings and question your own perspectives and doctrines when picturing the effect and positioning of a product.
In the end, we should never forget that whatever we do shapes our present and our future. And that is something not only relevant in digital design but in any choice that we make everyday. But that is a different story that shall be told another time.