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Inclusive design starts with you

Sabrina Lin, 6 minute read

“Inclusion” can feel like an abstract concept when so many nuances define our human experience. Many teams say that they strive for inclusivity, but what does that really mean? How can you foster an inclusive culture on your team and inclusivity for your users?  

Inclusivity builds stronger teams and creates value. In just once example, in 2018 the Boston Consulting Group reported that more inclusive management teams reported higher innovation revenue.  

As designers and product owners, we must incorporate inclusive design practices in our tools and processes because it’s a critical part of a user’s experience. Inclusive design celebrates each prospective user’s uniqueness, while also meeting their functional needs. That means that the product team must pay attention not only to the outcome, but the way they lead a user to it, while thinking deeply about the impact on users along the way.  

Sometimes that means stepping out of a preconceived mindset to consider what a user may feel as they navigate your application. Here’s a simple example: imagine you’re a customer with colorblindness, and you chance upon one of many applications using reds and greens to indicate negative and positive feedback. You might have a harder time perceiving the information. This scenario highlights a moment of exclusion that you don’t want your user to experience. 

Yet users aren’t the only people that benefit from inclusivity. Your company and your team will, too. Inclusive design can solve many pain points, both functional and perceived, for underrepresented users, resulting in stronger brand perception, positive business-customer relationships, improved overall accessibility for applications, and protection from discrimination-based lawsuits. It can also support social responsibility goals. Products designed with the needs of people experiencing poverty, disability, or the effects of ageing in mind can reach four times the number of originally intended consumers, according to a 2019 report conducted by the Center for Inclusive Design

When creating a product, it’s important to include as many diverse perspectives and voices as possible. Lived experience goes a long way towards building empathy — and preventing simplification, “tokenization,” or stereotyping within the design process. Simply put, inclusive design drives economic benefit and builds better teams.  

At Pega, we strive to foster and cultivate inclusive design best practices and encourage everyone building with Pega to do the same.

Here are a few more ways you can advocate for inclusive design at your organization: 

  1. Embrace inclusive research and testing practices

    Pega’s UX research team strongly believes in including diverse participants in our studies. As part of developing our typical user personas, in addition to outcomes, roles, and functional drivers, we aim to include a wide range of research participants in terms of role, age, race, gender identity, physical ability, and more. For our usability tests, we consider how easily participants of varying technological literacy levels can use our software features. Inclusive research lays the foundation for our products and ensures that we consider a wide range of perspectives.
  2. Get familiar with core accessibility concepts

    Inclusive design is a huge part of creating accessible applications. When designing interfaces, ask yourself questions such as: “How would I complete this task by just using a keyboard? With just a finger? How would I explain this concept to someone who may not be able to see these assets?”

    Not sure what to ask? You can learn more about the difference between accessibility and compliance, about simple ways to incorporate accessibility best practices into your UX design process. You can also watch W3C’s perspective videos to learn about the impacts of web accessibility.
  3. Hire (or advocate for hiring) diverse design teams

    Does your team always approach problems in the same way? Does everyone come from the same background? Working with — and advocating for hiring — different types of people will not only increase diversity and inclusivity within your own team but will also guarantee new perspectives that you may not have considered when building for users. No matter what your seniority level, you can advocate for multiple perspectives and increased diversity on your team.
  4. Build empathy by spending time with your users

    Understanding users isn’t just the research team’s job. Designers, engineers, and product owners must all build empathy with users, and the best way to do that is to observe them use your product and spend time listening to them. We encourage you to attend usability testing sessions and user interviews to examine the product from the user’s perspective and understand unique pain points firsthand.
  5. Partner with your user

    Inclusive design starts with a mindset. Designing with your users, instead of making assumptions about their needs, allows you to bring diverse ranges of needs and expectations to the forefront before you ship a design. Listening to their perspectives with the intention of understanding and empathizing will make all the difference here. Doing so improves the thoughtfulness of the approach, builds rapport with the community, and is a key differentiator for the market. 

As the architects of everyday experiences for large groups of people, we have the choice to invest in a culture and mission that aspires to include everyone. Inclusivity and inclusive design are critical to team and product success, and all of us have the power to make it happen.

Recommended resources: 

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About the Author

Sabrina Lin is a UX design intern at Pegasystems.  

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