10 Learnings From 10 Interviews About Inclusive Design Part 3
Welcome to our third and final installment of the 10 learnings from Analogous’ first 10 interviews with leaders in the world of inclusive design- the IQ Interview Series. You can check out part 1 here and part 2 here.
7. Inclusive design is a way to effect meaningful social change- and you can have an impact at an environmental or a policy level.
Social justice is as significant a reason people are interested in inclusive design as market share or product quality. For most of us in the developed world, for better or worse, the most significant way we act out our social values is as consumers- what we buy (or don’t buy), what we consider quality, how we decide whose products we purchase, and how we assign value to things in the marketplace.
Sometimes some of the most significant social changes have risen to meet market demand- American women found social, economic, and political empowerment as World War 2 required their presence in the workforce, and the Fair Trade movement today has made high quality goods synonymous with ethical labor practices, with a premium price many are willing to pay as a result.
On a policy level, activism that advances awareness or requires implementation of inclusive principles will naturally find its way into the marketplace- advocating for expanded access to technology or requiring new standards accommodation for persons with disabilities will result in an increased demand for products and services that meet these needs, spurring innovation.
On an environmental level, developing products that proactively address issues of inclusion wins the innovator a big market advantage, but also drives awareness of the issues addressed into the public sphere- create an app that lets blind people navigate cities, for example, and you’ll spark conversation about how else this community can be served, and why it didn’t exist until now- and others will rush to create a quality offering of their own.
8. Designing for inclusion is more cost effective than retrofitting for accessibility.
As we’ve said before, accessibility and inclusion aren’t the same thing: inclusion is designing a user experience- a product or service- to be usable by as many people as possible at the same level of quality, and accessibility is adding features or functionality to an experience to allow users to participate that would otherwise have been unable to do so using the “default” design.
One thing we’ve learned from our IQ Interview guests is that in a wide range of industries and policy domains, retrofitting for accessibility is expensive- much more so than designing an inclusive product in the first place. This can mean obvious, tangible things like adding in features or accessory devices to a product for the visually or hearing impaired, but it can also mean things like having to create specialized public school districts with their own administrative hierarchy and budget for students with special needs.
If the need to accommodate the users in the previous examples had been considered when these experiences were first being designed, it would be a less costly and time-consuming endeavor overall to make them inclusive.
This relates nicely to our next point…
9. Your target market is never going to capture everyone who will use your brand in the real world. Even accurate buyer profiles evolve and expand too quickly to make meaningful long-term assumptions about who will use your brand. Design for everyone.
Building a buyer profile is one of the first steps to a solid business or design strategy- visualize who you expect to use your brand in as much details as possible, learn as much about their behavior, preferences, and patterns as you can, and use this information to guide your design. While this is indisputably an important part of any business plan, its effectiveness in describing the real market for a brand is often overstated.
The reason for this is simple. While big data and our ever more-interconnected markets do give us an increasingly better view of who consumers are, it doesn’t capture everyone- especially those who are currently or have previously been excluded from consideration. While sometimes invisible, excluded consumers still exist- and they’re going to keep trying to get their needs met by every brand that comes to market.
Additionally, the advance of technology and emerging consumer markets means that the pool of potential consumers of your brand won’t stay the same very long. You may have designed a casual video game for bored American college students, but if it suddenly develops a cult following among elderly grandmothers in Pakistan because of a cute character reminiscent of their favorite childhood TV show, you’re losing a chance to be a breakout success if you haven’t designed your experience to be fun enough to keep those Pakistani grandmas engaged enough to spread the word about your app.
10. Remember that the definition of inclusion- and therefore what constitutes good inclusive design- will continue to evolve AND expand as our understanding of people and design itself grows.
Not long ago, I asked a very wise young woman the perennial question to ask young women of a particular age when trying to make conversation: What do you want to be when you grow up? Without skipping a beat, she informed me, “I want to be an AI teacher.” Intrigued, I asked her if she meant she wanted to be a professor of machine learning or artificial intelligence programming. No, she explained: she wanted to be the person to teach general AI systems, the as-yet nonexistent entities capable of full human-level thought, how to understand the world, use language, and know right and wrong. I thanked her in advance for her likely role in preventing a future robot uprising.
The point of this charming career goal is that as we increase our understanding of human diversity, we will find new ways of measuring the needs, abilities, and strengths of humans on an increasingly individual level- rather than seeing markets or populations as large, generally sorted groups, we will increasingly be able to consider and build experiences for everyone. Remaining competitive in such an environment will require participation in this continued learning about the human condition.
We hope you enjoyed our reflection on the 10 learnings from our first 10 interviews, and that you’ll continue to join us as the IQ Interview Series becomes Project Inclusion, featuring more great leaders in inclusion in a full-video format. We’d also love to help YOU get a jump start on the inclusive future- contact us to learn what we can bring to your company or brand.