Is Inclusive Design good for business?
Questions from Tech reporter Shephali Bhatt (Economic Times) for her Article.
Question 1: How do you make the case for inclusive design being good for business? Some examples would help?
Answer: Inclusive design when carefully considered for the marginalised users will bring in value addition to their lives. This value has to be channelled across multiple teams in the organisation. So they would build a product or a feature within a product that caters to these users who will just be ignored by the entire team. It will therefore appeal to all users and sometimes a starting point for a lot of users who may not even know about it. In return, these users of the particular product could initiate the use and monetisation of the product thereby being good for the business.
E.g. “Adaptxt” keyboard is a smartphone keyboard that was created in 2006–07 completely out of a need for the founder’s brother to interact with keyboard on his smartphone after an accident that rendered him partially immobile. The user had to just do a gesture on the touch keyboard for keyboard input and therefore making his entire typing experience seamless without worrying about spelling mistakes or the painful process of typing each key with his fingers that didn’t move effectively.
And therefore the product was created for users with accessibility issues and very much a business case later that added more features on top of the original English keyboard. It added Indic languages and more support for translations and gestures. There were themes around festivals and customisation of visuals on the keyboard that made it even more attractive for regular users to spend their money.
It was proposed to different OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for implementation on Tablets as well as Smart TVs in future and it was widely adopted even by people who just loved the way it was designed to make keyboard typing cumbersome. Similar technology was later developed independently by Google, Microsoft and Apple for their inbuilt default keyboard interface for Smartphones.
Question 2: How do you feel about the fact that inclusive design is not a given and has to be justified as something that’ll be allowed only if it’s good for business?
Answer: I don’t feel good when a business does not want to understand its users and turn a feature or product down. Most often it is not good to do business when we don’t understand the user needs. Designers should be advocates for user needs and highlight those in business meetings / investors and trying to convince the business needs for the need of an inclusive design. Some ways to convince them :
- Inclusive design brings in more users to the product and companies around the world have been trying to establish good design ethics and giving importance to UX designs that enable the partially disabled or challenged people to also interact with the product using its accessibility features.
- It is a good campaign by the business to show how much they care about the marginalised community and therefore enhancing the product value among the regular as well as disabled community.
- Therefore product leaders and designers have to put their best foot in and try to convince the business about the long term rewards they can reap by allowing inclusive design in the product or building an inclusive product.
Question 3: What are some basic questions you think a product designer could ask of themselves while building UI of an app/product that could make it more inclusive of minorities?
Answer: There are basic questions like:
- Check the UI prototype for Colour blindness?
- Is there more contrast in the UI so that partially blind or colour blind person can easily read?
- Are the colours too loud and give photosensitivity people uneasiness to look at the screen?
- Are there any flashing of images on the screen in terms of animation which can cause epilepsy to few users?
- How have the UI elements positioned on the screen? Does it help both left handed and right handed users?
- Has the designer considered the thumb/finger reach of single hand users on a bigger screen and users who use both their hands to hold smartphones or tablets?
- Is there proper audio assistance and uses Google assistant or Siri or Alexa when the user cannot visually see or operate with their hands due to loss of motor function?
- Is the UI easy to understand? Do the icons make sense? Are their proper explanation of icons and their actions?
Question 4: Any examples of products (online or offline) in daily life where you’ve seen growth in terms of inclusive design. Eg. Forms (in the west) that now allow people to pick multiple races, religions etc.
- Smartphone keyboards have grown over the years and past 12 years has seen them adopt many product ideas that were being done by independent niche companies worldwide. They have become easier to use with gestures and their Artificial Intelligence to predict next word or correct a sentence has improved making it a product on the smartphone easier to use and more inclusive over the years.
- Operating Systems now have dark and light mode customisation for people to use them as they wish and given extra advantage for people to read or write in day or night hours.
- Game controllers have become more and more inclusive in their ergonomics and designs.
- Google slides, forms, docs have grown and added features that does not require any dependence on OS and systems and allows anyone to create or edit or collaborate in real time from a browser on a laptop or app on a smartphone.
- User testing forms and interactive forms now give more flexibility to design them and add conditions and loops that make for customised flow and reports based on user selected path.
- Prototyping apps have started including different device prototypes and thus making it easier to test for users with disability.
Question 5: Any specific category of apps that you think could do much better in terms of incorporating elements of inclusive design? What can they work on and how?
Answer: I feel the daily use apps are very crucial when it comes to incorporating elements that are helpful:
- Food ordering — making the food and tiles clear and having an enlarged touch area with contrast would be easier for some users. Getting an audio input method to select food and restaurant to order would be great help.
- Taxi booking — making it audio based for any input as a feature addition to get the booking done without navigating the whole map and getting pick up or drop points wrong will be a good addition.
- Flight booking — Getting the audio feature built using Google Assistant or Siri to book flights and payment could be game changer and so many users with accessibility issues will not depend on agents or family members all the time for booking.
Detailed Shephali Bhatt’s article that delves into the tech industry’s attempts at building products for people who are not like them. Find out why the majority still don’t champion accessibilty in product design with major inputs from other product and ux designers: https://m.economictimes.com/tech/technology/why-inclusive-tech-remains-elusive/articleshow/84357124.cms