What is Inclusive Design and Why Does it Matter?

What is inclusive design? It is about designing for the needs of people despite ability, age, race, gender, culture, or any other difference. Inclusive design removes barriers and enables everyone to participate equally, confidently, and independently in daily activities.

Have you ever watched a video clip on your mobile phone with the sound off? Do you recall seeing closed captioning automatically populate at the bottom of the screen? That is an example of inclusive design. While you may have dismissed it as a convenience for those trying to enjoy social media in a public area without disturbing others, it also offers a choice for individuals with hearing impairments. Taking everyone into consideration to provide equal access to engineered environments creates an enhanced, inclusive user experience.

What makes up inclusive design?

Wondering what you can do to incorporate inclusive design into your next project? Here are some key principles to consider:

  1. Seek out points of exclusion
    Determine where the shortcomings are in your design and produce creative solutions to remedy them.
  2. Consider the situation
    Remember the public space example above? Consider other situations that may impact user experience. The context in which your product will be used is essential when designing inclusively.
  3. Involve the user community
    Everyone can have personal biases. Involving people from diverse backgrounds and experiences ensures that the design is inclusive and tests assumptions and biases.
  4. Offer a choice for engagement
    There should be multiple ways to complete a task or access information. Providing alternatives gives the user the opportunity to select which option fits them and their situation best.
  5. Provide a comparable experience
    You’ve offered a choice for engagement; now ensure that no matter the option, it provides the user with the same experience.
  6. Be consistent
    Use of consistent design patterns and plain language are simple ways to reinforce the user’s ability to have the same experience. The use of templates, for example, is a wonderful way to accomplish this goal.

Inclusive design provides added value to the user through consideration of the diverse ways that people interact with content. Why does it matter? In short, inclusive design is about putting people first.