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Ask DN: How do you design for inclusivity in 2017?

over 2 years ago from , UX/UI Designer

Looking to read opinions/facts on designing for inclusivity in the modern cultural and political landscape. Race and gender are huge talking points right now, and I'm curious as to how other designers consider them in their work.

For example, using traditional "gender-biased" colors like blue and pink to represent boys and girls. Is there a "correct" way to do this?

29 comments

  • Duke CavinskiDuke Cavinski, over 2 years ago

    I know one way would be to stop using only WASP supermodels in Dribbble shots.

    12 points
    • Katie MacoyKatie Macoy, over 2 years ago

      Similar: I was looking for some templates of a person holding an iPhone for promotional material. I was amazed that every single template (cartoon hand and photographed hand) was a young, white hand. In this case I was looking for an older person's hand to suit our target audience. Literally couldn't find it.

      6 points
  • Adam Brenecki, over 2 years ago

    There isn't really a set of rules that instantly makes your product 100% inclusive and accessible. You could probably make up a set of guidelines that help, but even with them it's important to be able to understand the perspective of people that are different to you, and have them in the back of your mind when you're building your product. Doing this requires listening, reading and learning about the experiences of people who are different to you.

    It's also worth keeping in mind that inclusivity matters at every level of your product. Does your data model restrict users from changing their username, forcing someone to log in with the surname of their abusive ex-husband? Does your feature set allow users control over how much access strangers have to them? Are colourblind users of your product missing important information because of your UI? Does your marketing make potential users feel like your product isn't meant for them?

    The last thing that's worth remembering is that inclusivity is about more than just race and gender. I've already mentioned colourblindness; dietary requirements is one you need to think about if you're running an event; and so on. Plus, not everyone in a group thinks or behaves the same way, and some people belong to more than one of the groups you need to think about.

    9 points
    • Kevin Haag, over 2 years ago

      Great points, Adam, and I 100% agree with you—inclusivity is certainly not limited to race and gender. I especially love the example you give of a person not being able to change their username. It's not an immediately obvious idea in this discussion, but it truly embodies the spirit of understanding another's perspective. Thank you for your thoughtful reply!

      1 point
  • Joel CalifaJoel Califa, over 2 years ago

    Hire diversely and include more people in the design process. Make sure your user studies are thorough and inclusive. There's a lot you don't see that's obvious to other people, it's just a matter of giving them a chance to tell you.

    7 points
  • Account deleted over 2 years ago

    I don't conform to stereotypes like hey this is app for girls, let's make it pink.

    4 points
    • Kevin Haag, over 2 years ago

      I mostly agree with you, which is why I wanted to get the thoughts and opinions of the community. The problem I have is when to deviate from a common pattern like "pink for girls, blue for boys" as a way-finding symbol. Another more complex example is public bathroom signage. Are they inclusive of the entire population? No. As a tool for navigation, however, they're generally accepted... though this leaves a third group of non-binary people alienated entirely.

      Can design solve this problem at all? Or does it actually need deeper societal change? Maybe a little of both?

      0 points
  • Account deleted over 2 years ago

    I don't. Everyone is equal, treat it that way.

    People with disabilities and usability issues are a whole different topic.

    4 points
    • Interested Curious, over 2 years ago

      That's literally a matter of diversity and inclusiveness. While the original poster mentioned gender and race disabilities are in the same bubble, and they aren't mutually exclusive.

      And no everyone hasn't been treated equally in society. At all. And everyone has different needs and has nuances in their culture that would amplify their user experience greatly when considered.

      3 points
      • Account deleted over 2 years ago

        So we should treat different people differently? Doesn't sound like equality to me. Excuse me for being an optimist and not seeing people's differences.

        1 point
        • Jake Lazaroff, over 2 years ago

          Well, different people are different, so yes, we should treat them differently. Pretending those differences don't exist only exacerbates problems, and treating people equally doesn't mean that the outcomes are at all equal.

          This little infographic is a good illustration of why it's important to be aware of people's differences:

          equality vs equity

          7 points
          • Account deleted over 2 years ago

            Uh, in the third image they are being treated equally. You just proved my point. The second would be patronising if someone had stunted growth.

            1 point
            • Jake Lazaroff, over 2 years ago

              I didn't prove your point, because your premise that "everyone is equal" is wrong.

              If you're not careful to either design equitably or remove structural barriers, you end up like the first image, which is the worst case scenario for someone with stunted growth because they're literally being prevented from doing the thing they want.

              5 points
              • Account deleted over 2 years ago

                So everyone in the final image arent being treated equally then? And the final image isn't the best solution?

                0 points
                • Jake Lazaroff, over 2 years ago

                  It is, but…

                  • If for whatever reason you can't remove a structural barrier, then treating everyone equally gives you image number one, the worst of the three options. It's like the lack of period tracking in v1 of Apple Health — everyone was being treated equally, but the app was less useful specifically for women because of it.

                  • You need to be aware of people's differences to remove structural structural barriers. If you don't consider people of different heights, you might think that an opaque fence is a fine solution. When has anyone ever designed something successful by specifically avoiding learning about the problem?

                  4 points
                  • Daniel FoscoDaniel Fosco, over 2 years ago

                    When has anyone ever designed something successful by specifically avoiding learning about the problem?

                    Nailed it.

                    3 points
                  • Account deleted over 2 years ago

                    Good point. I think if you scope the project appropriately you'll see these issues right away though. I think we're kinda arguing about agreeing on the same thing. I didn't explain myself well enough at the start. My bad.

                    0 points
                  • Sean LesterSean Lester, over 2 years ago

                    This image makes the assumption there are three boxes available and that this metaphor applies to the problem of equity/equality in real life — but sometimes there's only one box. In most companies you simply don't have infinite resources. You have to decide where to apply your resources and time, and that often means designing for or improving an experience for a demographic or use case.

                    Surely, obviously it's a good thing to strive for inclusivity and for solving for more people — but it isn't a given that it's realistic to do so. Some of the top tech companies that really do have nearly infinite resources struggle to get this right.

                    In areas of life that aren't design, sometimes the box problem isn't like a box at all, and for people in general the earning of a "box" as compensation for effort is a meaningful incentive to apply effort. Rewarding people disproportionately to their effort or value has consequences for business and socially that impact not just the high effort producers, not just those who employ or otherwise capitalize on the value created by those producers, but also by those receiving or being perceived to receive undue compensation. This isn't meant to sound callous, it's just the reality of human psychology and the systems that allow society to function. The foundation of society and of morals themselves is the principle of reciprocity.

                    Sometimes, too, the box metaphor appears more like people advocating to give some a box and saw others' legs off at the ankles. This should never be the case. The pursuit should be to lessen everyone's suffering, to ensure that everyone flourishes in our society. There are a lot of areas that could make a much bigger impact in this respect than the areas we tend to focus on. We should be pursuing systemic changes that benefit everyone in measurable ways. Of course we shouldn't ignore the unique needs of disadvantaged peoples or ignore their suffering, but we should NOT let a philosophy of compassion as the supreme virtue drive us to short-sighted, divisive thinking.

                    There is a difference between being compassionate in the short term, in ways that signal socially that you're a compassionate person or simply seem to be the most compassionate thing to do one causal step out vs. looking at systems holistically and thinking several steps out more pragmatically about what will be more compassionate even if the immediate action doesn't seem as compassionate. For example, giving all of your money to charity, today, would be idiot compassion. You might get a news article, everyone would say how generous you are etc. but your power to do any more good would stop there. Alternatively, you could be a productive citizen, generate greater and greater wealth by virtue of your labor and give some percentage every month of your working life, and the total given could be much greater. That means you may need to skip charity at some points to invest in yourself, in your education and wellbeing.

                    Anyways, I think I've said enough on this.

                    2 points
            • Interested Curious, over 2 years ago

              It's not about equal treatment when it come to making a problems solution but equality in the end goal.

              It takes special treatment to make a webpage as usable to a visually impaired person as a non visually impaired person.

              1 point
              • Account deleted over 2 years ago

                No shit? Thats why I said

                'People with disabilities and usability issues are a whole different topic.'

                0 points
        • Interested Curious, over 2 years ago

          This sounds exactly like someone who's rarely (not never, if you're going to latch onto that bit) on the treated unequally end of the stick would say. It's a very strong attempt to silence the conversation by making yourself out to be morally correct here instead of acknowledging there is a problem, and acknowledging that equality is the end goal, not the description of the treatment given.

          2 points
          • Account deleted over 2 years ago

            Please tell me how treating people differently promotes equality. This kinda reminds me of the paradox of tolerance. You want equality but to get it you have to acknowledge that people are inherently unequal. You can't have it both ways. Or, you can take an idealistic approach to the issue and try and treat everyone equally and come up with the best solution based on the parameters you're given. It's both a philosophically ambiguous situation, and also unfortunately a chicken and egg situation.

            0 points
      • Sean LesterSean Lester, over 2 years ago

        Being a certain race is the same as being color blind or deaf with respect to product design? Ok.

        1 point
        • Interested Curious, over 2 years ago

          Wow you really lack any sort of deductive reasoning and think being snarky and or sarcastic makes your point stronger.

          I'm not touching this one.

          I'll help you find the point of what I said. Read the first line of the comment. Then the second.

          Tada. Once there, you'll see your comment revealed more about your own internal bias than the discussion at hand.

          0 points
  • Jake Lazaroff, over 2 years ago

    I think a lot of inclusivity comes down to challenging your preconceived notions about people's preferences, experiences, abilities and choices. A lot of times people leave features out of a product because it doesn't apply to then personally, or it doesn't occur to them that a norm might not apply to everyone.

    Sometimes it's as simple as realizing your depictions of people leave large groups out. The PC game Rust was at the center of controversy for randomizing players' race and sex without the option to change it. A lot of white players didn't want to be forced to have black avatars. I wonder how people of color felt when they were forced to use white emoji!

    Another classic example: no mensuration tracking in v1 of Apple Health. As of last August, period tracking apps have been downloaded over 200 million times. Would this have happened had Apple had more engineers who have periods?

    Health is an especially dense quagmire, but as someone pointed out before, accessibility is an important part of inclusivity that goes beyond race and gender. Are you sure the person who's using your app can see? What if they have dyslexia? It's great that we're trying to be exclusive in new ways, but let's not forget lessons we've already learned.

    Ultimately, I think inclusivity is really an issue of empathy. If you can put yourself in your users' shoes — different users, not just able-bodied white men — you'll do fine.

    3 points
  • OJ Quevedo, over 2 years ago

    Empathy plays a big role when designing for inclusivity. Also, diversity (gender, race, etc) in teams help ensure we design for people with different perspectives.

    2 points
  • Jon LJon L, over 2 years ago

    Diverse teams solve diverse problems.

    0 points