Let me briefly introduce the two key elements.
DEI – diversity, equity, inclusion – it’s a popular mindset that aims to include every person, regardless of ability, gender, language, culture, and any other form of human difference.
Inclusive Design – it’s a practical methodology that enables to design for a full range of human diversity.
In short, DEI is the theory for everyone, and Inclusive Design is the practice for designers.
In the following three steps, I walk you through a short path for gaining a basic understanding of the mindset, for utilizing common tools, and for bringing your ideas to the real market with a technological support.
MINDSET – recognize the diversity
There are great guidelines for gaining a mindset and for adopting general best practices, like Apple, Microsoft and Google have set up. These sources have been ongoing for years, enabling designers to consider any disability related to sight/hearing/touch – when designing interfaces. These guidelines focus on making any digital product accessible to anyone, with or without disabilities. To foster the mindset of Inclusive Design for DEI, you might find yourself facing clients and colleagues, as well as the final users. Here I share three quick hints.
When proposing this approach to your clients, try to highlight this main takeaway: designing for people with disabilities means making the contents even easier to access for anyone else. Thus, Inclusive Design pays back in any case, as it benefits people universally.
Then, even if you do not get budget/time for an extra effort, please keep in mind that “exclusion” happens when we solve problems using our own biases. So, try recognizing your own biases and work around them.
When introducing junior designers to this approach, I personally suggest considering these three key concepts:
- Simplicity – making contents familiar to avoid people learning new systems.
- Perceivability – making sure that all contents are perceived as the same with all senses (see, hear, touch).
- Personalization – enabling people to customize the most common interactions.
When bringing your digital product to the market, and so to the mass market, I usually include this aspect into our strategies: to clearly communicate the results to the final users. The problem is that many people are not even aware of the many great features in their mobile phones, such as VoiceOver, LargeTextSize, ReduceMotion, ColorContrast, etc. As a designer make sure that people know about all the little design twists – especially if they took you hours of research and testing.
This first step is a must to consider, as it raises empathy and sensibility of designers.
TOOLS – design for diversity
Once the mindset has been set up and the guidelines explored, designers might wonder how to put Inclusive Design into practice. At this point, you need a hands-on approach to really practice what you preached, to ensure that your project can really take everyone into account.
As designers we say, “immerse yourself into users´ reality”, so to meet their direct needs. If designing for a visually impaired group of users, I have a tip: try to design an app while covering your eyes! Nah, I’m joking. Or maybe not. Anyways, if you try it, then let me know. But how? Do you even know if I can read or listen to your messages? Or do you know how to address me?
The above are very basic questions that we often forget to consider, as we assume a certain setup. And these assumptions make us unintentionally exclude who’s different from us. Those unconscious assumptions are called biases. Yeah, they suck! I know, so let me help. The tools below might be of support to walk them around.
But first and foremost, do your research. This will always be the very first step for every designer. We do not invent things, we understand the world and only then, we try to make it better. Thus, researching on your users and the actions that they will perform, will help to contextualize your effort.
Once you are done with your research, feel free to explore these design tools.
- Idean’s Cards for humanity – a set of cards that support your brainstorming sessions with multiple persons and traits. It lets you focus on different needs and challenges.
- We Are Colorblind – helps optimizing for color accessibility and usability.
- Microsoft Activity Cards – it’s a great set of cards that communicates guidelines. It is not a ready to use tool, but it’s an exhaustive explanation of how you could tackle inclusivity depending on the design stage you are in, so it offers a section for each design phase.
- Contrast – to quickly test your interface contrast for accessibility.
- Mapping TheEdge Cards – is a set of super smart Use Cases that you could try at any stage of your design process, especially during ideation or testing; it enables you to think about any sort of different disability and at different levels.
- The A11 Y Project – is an open-source to test web pages and to automatically generate detailed reports.
TECH – support the diversity
Design is a key element today, but without strong technological support, it runs with less power. Here I list some of the tech resources that will help you in making your design feasible.
- Google’ web accessibility – an open-source platform for learning and creating web platforms accessibly for everyone.
- Dyslexie Font – The most common reading errors of dyslexia are swapping, mirroring, changing, turning, and melting letters together. In the Dyslexie font, every letter is uniquely shaped, eliminating the common reading errors of dyslexia.
- Color Contrast Check – a free tool to evaluate contrast ratios between foreground and background.
- FontAwesome – a free icon set which looks great and can also help low-literacy users to interact with your product.
- Readable – a platform that analyses your writing, providing with a “readability score” and tips to improve those phrasing that might be hard to understand.
Here we close the circle: mindset, tools, technology. Isn’t it a perfect basic guide? No, it’s not, it’s imperfect. Just like people are imperfect. And that’s why we like each other, and you should like this imperfect guide, too.
These inputs are just a compact summary. There are many other great contents out there. Still, for the same basic principle of Inclusive Design, it’s crucial to consider the most standardized and common ideas to empower as many people as possible out of the 7.4 million people worldwide.
Two other articles have been written on the subject of DEI.