We are keenly focused on activating change for good with human-centred design. This means understanding, supporting, and applying the principles of accessibility, inclusivity, and usability every day.
Understanding accessibility, usability, and inclusivity
There’s a lot of crossover between these terms, and we encourage a mixed approach when designing and building. But these concepts also have separate meanings for each of their respective audiences.
The W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) explains the fundamental differences and similarities between these concepts. It points out:
Accessibility focuses on designing for people with disabilities. An example of accessible design is a website that’s fully compatible with a screen-reader.
Usability focuses on making experiences efficient, effective, and satisfying. It can, but doesn’t necessarily, include under-represented groups. An example of usable design is placing the home button in the top left-hand corner of the page because that’s what users are familiar with.
Inclusivity ensures the involvement of everyone to the greatest possible extent. It encompasses all aspects of accessibility and inclusivity, as well as demographics, culture, education, or lifestyle. Automatic doors are a good example of inclusive design – they make it easier for disabled users, and people who don’t have their hands free. Overall, it’s a better experience for everyone.
It’s normal to be different
Lange and Becerra say that “it’s normal to be different”. In other words, the average user doesn’t exist. Truly inclusive design should focus on building for a diverse range of under-represented groups, rather than attempting to find a catch-all design for the ‘average user’. By centring design around users who have the least capability to use a product, you are including the widest possible audience of users.
What we design is a by-product of how we design
Without diversity and collaboration across an organisation it’s difficult to be inclusive. It can lead to a lack of consideration for users who are less capable or think differently to the designers who made it. This creates products and services for an exclusive group of users – which is not good practically, financially, or ethically.
If you focus on making the experience easier for the least capable users, you’re making it easier for the most capable users too. Creating inclusive products and services calls for diverse teams, cross-discipline collaboration, and applying inclusive ideas and principles throughout the design process.
Diverse teams design for inclusivity
To create products and services that are inclusive to a diverse audience, you need to start with diversity across teams and organisations. Teams that feature a variety of demographics, beliefs, interests, and backgrounds have a better chance of considering a wider group of end-users.
Optimising diversity with collaboration
The best products and services are a result of multiple schools of thought coming together. While organisational diversity will make an impact, collaboration and communication ties together the breadth of perspectives and skills. If disciplines remain working in silos, it might leave gaps and issues in the final output. In terms of inclusivity, this could mean forgetting certain under-represented groups.
Using and understanding best practice
While diversity is a key determinant of inclusive outputs, it’s not possible to have teams made up of every variety of person – as we now know, it’s normal to be different. Being experienced and educated in inclusive practises (such as the WAI guidelines) is a crucial part of designing for all.
User testing with a broad audience
User testing is an important part of creating products and services that people can use and enjoy. By actively seeking a varied group of people during user testing, there’s a great opportunity to further broaden your scope of diversity to build more inclusive digital experiences.
Everyone benefits from inclusive digital experiences
Building products and services that work for everyone isn’t as simple as following a set of rules. It calls for a broader consideration of who’s being hired, and how people work together within and across teams. By having collaborative and diverse teams at the foundation, best practise and the application of standards can be effectively carried out.
Thanks for reading our series on accessibility
We've written a series of blogs for Global Accessibility Day 2019. You can read the rest of the series here:
Use a design system to create better processes for usable, accessible design.
Don’t let your content leave people out. Ruth, our Content Director, shares some of her top tips to make your digital content work for everyone.
React Accessible Accordion 3.0 ensures that developers have an accessible accordion component readily available.
Team up with us to build accessible digital experiences
With our human-centred approach, we'll work with you to create accessible, usable, and inclusive products and services. Get in touch to learn more.