Inclusivity is a priority that has grown in importance as society becomes more aware of the challenges faced by many marginalized communities. The global marketplace of ideas and commerce has made this possible.
Now, as brands see the value and ethical imperative of designing inclusive content, they are elevating their user experiences (UX) by opening them up to all audiences. Accessibility is a key tenet of an inclusive UX, but it doesn’t end there.
A truly inclusive UX is made up of thoughtful and diverse strategies. Understand what this means to elevate your brand, then apply these useful strategies for greater inclusivity.
What an Inclusive UX Means
When your website fails to include all users, you lock out major audiences and potential revenue streams. But your bottom line isn’t the point. Inclusivity is an ethical imperative, one that can have devastating consequences if you fail to incorporate it into your content.
But what does inclusivity really mean?
Inclusivity is the process of designing a UX for every type of user imaginable. Like accessibility, this includes individuals with physical or mental impairments, but it also goes much wider. Inclusivity invites audiences of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, and more into an experience.
In short, inclusivity means a welcoming design, one that is both representative and accessible.
To get there, you’ll have to consider all kinds of experiences, viewpoints, identities, and backgrounds in your approach to digital business. Imagine what it might be like to attempt to use a site to buy a product you want only to find it impossible to read or navigate. This is the situation that many users find themselves in when they encounter a site that is not designed for inclusivity.
For example, when Guillermo Robles attempted to use Domino’s Pizza’s website to make an order in 2016, he found it impossible to do so. The site was not compatible with a screen-reader and thus locked him out of the online ordering process. This led to a lawsuit that found Domino’s Pizza at fault for violating the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), a ruling that set a legal precedent for viewing websites as public spaces.
To avoid the damage that can come from an inaccessible and exclusive site, you must be prepared to build an inclusive user experience. Doing so elevates your brand because it shows the public that you represent them and you care about what you do.
As consumers and workers increasingly place importance on company values, inclusivity is a trait that you need to marry to your UX design.
Strategies for Making Your UX More Inclusive
This doesn’t have to be a difficult process. The golden rule can guide many of the development and design decisions you’ll make in the course of creating or overhauling a UX. If you wouldn’t want a site or app to lock you out of the experience in one way or another, ensure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Microsoft is one example of a brand elevating itself through an inclusive UX. With their roll-out of an inclusive language checker in Microsoft 365, the tech giant has shown a dedication to opening up the platform to all their customers and anyone who is serious about using more inclusive language. By turning on this feature, you get automatic notifications in the user interface about inclusivity concerns.
To design such a tool, Microsoft undoubtedly had to have a keen understanding of their user’s journeys as well as their experiences. For many businesses, however, the hard part is considering all the diverse needs and situations of your users to create a truly inclusive platform.
As humans, we are often limited to the framework of our own experiences. To get beyond this narrow vision and build an inclusive UX, consider the following strategies.
1. Map the User Journey
One of the most powerful tools at our disposal for evoking empathy is storytelling. Stories are everywhere and in every culture, guiding actions and morals, understanding, and emotions. Fortunately, mapping user stories is also an extremely powerful tool for building a better UX. You can use tools such as customer journey maps and user story maps to understand what a day in the life of a user looks like.
User story mapping is the process of creating a visual that describes who your users are, what they need, and how they go about getting it. From there, you can ask important questions about who might find your content a challenge, who might be locked out of using your platform, and how you can better deliver your product.
With a story map, you can approach usability from a narrative perspective, offering you new and inclusive insights to build into your UX.
2. Understand Accessibility Guidelines
Accessibility is one of the core elements of inclusivity. Without content designed for all types of audiences, you will fail in terms of ethics, SEO, and business acumen. As many as 57 million Americans live with a disability and yet only 2% of web pages are accessible to disability communities. To do better, you need to provide alternatives to your content media and design with assistive tech compatibility in mind.
Follow accessibility guidelines to achieve a better-optimized design. This includes building a sitemap with a logical flow, checking your UX accessibility using evaluative tools, and ensuring compatibility with all devices.
The more perspectives you can get on a project, the easier this will be to achieve.
3. Build a Diverse UX Team
To best build an inclusive UX, you need a team that represents diverse backgrounds. As much as you might feel like you understand the issues from reading up on accessibility guidelines and building comprehensive and usable platforms, there’s always the chance you might be missing something that is keeping a user out.
A diverse team on your web content design process can help give you the perspectives you might otherwise be missing. Even if you’re handling your UX entirely alone, you can always reach out through A/B testing, user surveys, and questionnaires to get the insight you need.
But how will you know what to ask about?
4. Conduct Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness Training
That’s where conducting cultural sensitivity or awareness training comes in handy. No matter their background, every designer could use a refresher on all the ways you can build a more inclusive UX. From accessibility provisions like screen reader compatibility to unbiased language, the gamut of considerations you need to think about runs wide.
Engaging all members of your branding efforts with cultural sensitivity training can help you catch problems that might occur. For example, gendered or insensitive phrasing can impact a user’s experience. Prevent these issues before they occur with an educated workforce.
5. Never Stop Gathering Feedback
Finally, you never want to stop gathering feedback if you are to ensure an inclusive UX. Public perceptions and needs change all the time. COVID-19 proved that, as businesses had to quickly adapt their UX to meet quarantine demands. With a comprehensive and ongoing approach to feedback and assessment, however, you’ll find adapting to change much easier.
Understanding how inclusive your UX really is comes down to the metrics you gauge through public feedback. Institute a regular method of obtaining this feedback within your platform, on social media, in emails, or however else you can best reach your audience.
In fact, it’s best to spread out your feedback efforts to make the process even more inclusive. With insights and data on hand, you’ll be ready to elevate the reputation and ethics of your brand by inviting in a larger audience.
Elevating Your Brand Through Inclusivity
Inclusivity is ethically paramount for any digital endeavor. No matter what you’re offering online, you need a platform that accommodates the needs and cultures of your entire target audience. From there, you’ll cultivate a great reputation while making your user’s lives easier.
Improve your brand now with a more inclusive UX. Start by mapping the user journey and don’t forget to gather feedback all along the way. By inviting users to participate, inclusivity becomes a simple, ethical, and easy aspect of designing web content.
Where to Learn More
To learn more about inclusive design consider signing up for the upcoming Webinar on Inclusive Design by Frank Spillers, CEO of Experience Dynamics (recording of the live session will be available).
If you’re beginning your journey into UX Design, the IxDF free library of UX literature is a great place to start.
Lead image credit: Pexels