Back Back

Think big! Here’s what you need to know about inclusive design online

Inclusive design is indispensable because it offers an array of perspectives
Image: © Agence Olloweb / Unsplash

Why is inclusive design a thing? What does it mean and why is it important?

What does inclusive design actually mean? To give the short answer, inclusive design for a website means taking the needs of as many people as possible into consideration when you design the UX. This approach respects how diverse people can be instead of only presenting one narrow perspective. The factors involved include

  • strengths (level of education, language skills, etc.)
  • weaknesses (cognitive or physical limitations)
  • characteristics (gender, age, nationality, etc.)

Let’s face it, more than a few people find it physically difficult to process certain content on a website. This might be due to a visual impairment, which means that those affected need strong contrasts or clearly legible fonts, while other people might have little or no reading ability and therefore need a screen reader or audio content, for example.t. People with hearing impairments, on the other hand, rely on transcripts or subtitles. In 2019, there were

350.000 people
in Germany with a visual impairment, and
5.4 million people
who indicated that they had difficulty hearing.

But despite this kind of accessibility, there is still plenty of work to do when it comes to inclusion. And this work starts at the point where our personal perspectives reach their limits and unintentionally exclude other people.

Moving away from homogeneous target groups and toward greater diversity

Although ensuring a good user experience (UX) and delivering a user-centered design should be a priority for most developers and companies, their focus on tightly defined target groups and/or technological requirements often means that they only take a fraction of people into consideration and ignore the rest. Which means they are wasting significant potential. That could range from committing to specific operating systems, devices, or the network connection up to the potential interest of people outside a particular target group. For example, young people are not the only ones who are interested in e-book readers, despite what the conventional association between “young and tech-savvy” might suggest.

Major digital companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have recognized this potential and made inclusive design a top priority. Apple CEO Tim Cook has even stated that accessibility is a human right.

The advantage of accessible, inclusive UX design is that users who are interested in products or services are not immediately excluded by formal errors or defects that sometimes also relate to content. Instead, the focus is on providing easy access for everyone, without any obstacles. The first obstacle that users may encounter when they visit a website, by the way, is a cookie banner, which can confuse, annoy, or even scare them off.

Even if people are interested in the same product, they also have completely different backgrounds that shape their motivation to visit a website and their interest in what it offers. Someone with a visual impairment might want to buy a tablet, to make it easier for them to read books as e-books. Someone else might use a tablet at school and might also need one that is easy to operate so they can get used to things gradually. Finding the common denominator in situations like these while still being able to meet a range of needs (keyword: universal design) is crucial for inclusive design.

But that’s enough theory; let’s look at putting inclusive design into practice

Inclusion requires a corporate culture that focuses on openness and diversity. We’ve put together a list of points to guide you through the process of implementing inclusive design:

  1. Start within your own team: Look for people who are different but still get along well. (Yes, that is possible!)
  2. Set an example when it comes to inclusion and give people from disadvantaged groups the chance to speak when you design your website, for example in testimonials, videos, or photos.
  3. Involve people with different strengths, weaknesses, and characteristics in the design process!
  4. Check the images you use: Do they represent different skin colors? Have you also included people who wear glasses? And what about older people?
  5. Start by concentrating on one particular limitation and develop a solution – people with hearing impairments, for example. Then move on to the next perspective.
  6. Be empathetic. Just because you don’t know anyone who is blind or deaf, that isn’t a reason to ignore them. Try and put yourself in the shoes of someone who is different from you.
  7. List interactions that are inconsistent. Note situations where the interaction doesn’t flow smoothly. What do you need to improve?

You can then use this list to help you focus all your efforts on developing websites that are as accessible as possible – or even fully accessible — that can benefit everyone.

At this point, you might be interested in our article on design thinking, which involves an iterative process that is the ideal way to get inclusive design up and running. This article explains how you can implement design thinking.

If you don’t want to miss any other exciting topics, then subscribe to our content newsletter now and stay up to date.

Saskia Spiske
Share this story