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Inclusivity in Software Design and Development

Tons of research on how and why we must design inclusive software already exists. Still, developers sometimes make some common mistakes when they don't consider the needs of a diverse population. These mistakes make it hard for some users to use software or a website. They can also make them feel unwelcome or less capable, so let's discuss this topic further.
Daniel Zacharias

Beatriz Figueiredo

September 26, 2022

Inclusivity is an important issue in software design and development as developers and designers must consider the needs of all users, not just those traditionally seen as “normal”. For example, people with disabilities should be able to use software products like anyone else. This isn’t always an easy feat, but it’s essential to ensure everyone can use technology or products no matter the situation. 

Companies can also focus on inclusivity in design by considering different data types. For example, they might want to consider how they collect and use data regarding people or their clientele. Development teams and companies should also remain vigilant about ensuring their users’ privacy, as it’s easy for hackers to abuse it.

Each and every design decision potentially includes or excludes customers. Making informed design decisions based on a greater understanding of user diversity helps incorporate as many people as possible with every potential user’s goal. User diversity includes differences in capabilities, requirements, and goals.

Inclusive Design Principles

To put it simply, inclusive design means people come first. It’s about designing for the requirements of those with permanent, temporary, situational, or shifting disabilities. In other words — everyone — no matter who or where they are.

These principles provide a comprehensive approach to inclusive design to anyone involved in the design and development of software and applications:

Think universally.

Inclusive design principles are essential for creating products accessible to everyone. This includes people with disabilities, different body types and age groups, experience levels with technology, and so on. Development and design teams must start every project by considering how a wide range of people will use their product. 

For example, when designing a new phone, the teams must consider how people with different hand sizes or abilities could use it. They can also make their product more inclusive by using accessible materials and design features.

Make it personal.

Inclusive design is a philosophy emphasizing the importance of considering everyone who will use or see a product. It starts with understanding the user’s needs and wants and then creating a product that is easy to use and convenient for all. 

This helps people with disabilities, those unfamiliar with technology, or those with disabilities that prevent them from using traditional products to feel included in society. The inclusive design also encourages companies to think about sustainability when creating products.

Give control.

Development teams should ensure that people have control. People should be able to access and interact with content as they desire. Teams shouldn’t restrict or prohibit the ability to adjust standard browser and platform settings such as orientation, text size, zoom, and contrast. Furthermore, unless there is a mechanism to regulate it, development teams should avoid content updates that the user didn’t trigger.

Keep things as simple as possible.

Inclusive design ensures everyone can use a product or service without learning a new set of rules. To do this, it’s essential to keep things as simple as possible. This means using clear and concise design language, avoiding clutter, and simplifying processes. 

It also means considering the needs of all users, especially those with disabilities. By following these principles, development teams can make products accessible and inclusive for everyone.

Designing inclusive software: tips and tricks

Do not allow bias to influence software design decisions.

Designing inclusive software means considering the needs of different groups of people and designing everything with accessibility as the top priority. 

The first step to avoiding bias in your product is for development teams to assess their own internal biases. They may reflect on their past actions and reasoning, then evaluate how that bias might affect design decisions. For example, suppose a development team member is biased against a particular type of person or group. In that case, it might lead them to make decisions that unintentionally exclude this group of people from the product.

Finally, teams should take steps to mitigate any unintended consequences of their bias. They may need to involve other people in the decision-making process to ensure that everyone has access to the product and may use it effectively.

Always request permission.

Requesting an email address from a user does not provide companies with the authorization to send unsolicited contact. Users must input their number to access a free trial version of a software application, but it doesn’t indicate that sales staff should start calling them automatically.

Consent is essential and an indication of respect for limits and preferences. Always make it obvious to users what they are committing to, and preserve their ability to rescind consent at any time.

Look for exclusionary factors.

To reach inclusivity, teams should consider the objectives and tasks achieved with their software product and then ask the following questions:

  • Could a visually impaired individual utilize each feature?
  • Is every function accessible via alternate input methods?
  • Does the product include references to popular culture or slang words that may create language or geographical barriers?
  • Does the product accommodate people who may wish to avoid phone conversations?
  • Could any features or functionalities offend or cause users to act against their spiritual or cultural beliefs and traditions?

Always designing software with inclusivity in mind

Tons of research on how and why we must design inclusive software already exists. Still, developers sometimes make some common mistakes when they don’t consider the needs of a diverse population. These mistakes make it hard for some users to use software or a website. They can also make them feel unwelcome or less capable. Software design and development requires empathy and inclusivity from all involved to ensure that every product on the market is usable, helpful, and enjoyed by any potential user. 

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