Paving the Way for Your Users: Revolutionise the User Experience with Inclusive Design

Paving the Way for Your Users: Revolutionise the User Experience with Inclusive Design

29th November 2012

At the Conversion Conference 2012 the second day started with an incredibly insightful talk from Artur Ortega Senior Accessibility & Usability Developer, hibu. Artur’s talk was focused on ‘inclusive design’, he aimed to discuss that while we focus so hard on design (especially in the digital realm), sometimes we look beyond making our design simply functional and ensuring that this design is truly inclusive to all users, whether that is determined by the demographics or through disability. Inclusive design dictates designing all products and the environment in which they exist to be usable by the greatest extent by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.

Designers often find difficulty when moving from the physical world where design is being used and how we can translate this to the digital world, often things get left by the wayside. Artur’s experience includes working as Accessibility Evangelist for Yahoo! Europe, he and was member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Protocols and Formats Working Group (PFWG) and now is the Senior Accessibility & Usability Developer at hibu.

“A golden key can open any door”

  • Inclusive design turns the focus away from a golden ratio and turns it into a golden key.
  • Design for diversity.
  • The attitude in design makes all the difference, inclusive design allows you to use art and design to achieve your goals.
  • “Design is the purposive application of creativity to all the activities necessary to bring ideas into use either as product (service) or product innovations”
  • Design is a political art (paraphrasing Daniel Liebeskind ‘architecture is a political act’).
  • An inclusive society needs inclusive design.

Search Engines are Deaf and Blind

Search Engines are Blind and Deaf

  • Image and video optimisation isn’t just for SEO best practice, it’s for inclusiveness of all users of the Internet (disabled or not).
  • SEO puts a disabled engine into the centre of design, however inclusive design puts disabled people into the centre of design – humans, not robots.
  • Ask yourself, ‘can we use the software if we can’t use our hands’ (like when we’re driving), ‘can we use the software if we can’t see the monitor?’
  • “Good design enables, bad design disables”
  • “Don’t ask yourself what your users can’t do but ask yourself instead what your users can do”
Each Design Decision Excludes or Includes People

4 key principles of Inclusive Design

1. Perceivable

Make the beauty of your design presentable to users in ways they can perceive. Artur recalls visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, being blind, he asked for the audio guide – this allowed him to experience this in a fantastically engaging way and perceive his environments.

2. Operable

“Make the interaction with your design operable and easy to use”. Stephen Hawking’s speaking device is a fantastic example of this.

3. Understandable

Make the information and interaction with your design understandable.

4. Robust

Make your design robust enough that it can be interpreted and used reliably. – This involves testing!

Cambridge Engineering Design Centre came up with the following list of who denies inclusive design:

Who Denies Inclusive Design from the Conversion Conference

Examples of Inclusive Design

  • The single-head mixer tap – originally designed for disabled user. Today this is a standard in kitchens and bathrooms
  • OXO/Good Grips (founded by Sam Farber) Sam’s wife had arthritis in her hands and found many kitchen utensils difficult, he invented these to overcome that.
  • Artur also spoke about some things as simple as currency, which can provide some difficulty for disabled users; especially if you’re travelling enough. This leads onto another point, the camera on a smartphone is a very powerful inclusive design feature for blind peopleMoney reader for the iPhone allows Artur to scan and understand what currency he has with him.
  • Accessible time tables – Travel apps have been updated to tell the user where the train is at that current time (e.g. between station a and station b). Train stations are incredibly busy places and the announcements are often hard to hear or the timetable boards difficult to see, this is an example of inclusive design.

Apple are the stand out example of digital inclusive design.

  • John Elias developed RSI from designing, he then created FingerWorks for people with reduced mobility or RSI. Apple acquired FingerWorks in 2005, this technology is integrated into Apple’s iPad/iPhone.
  • Screen Reader in every iPhone, VoiceOver – the world’s first gesture-based screen reader. This is fundamentally inclusive design, it ensures that even blind people can use the iPhone – even though it has no keys.
  • Siri great example of Text-To-Speech technology, developed for people that are blind – voice input was developed for those that are hard of hearing.
  • Talking Compass – Artur recalled that in the States this is particularly effective as streets are generally laid out on a grid reference and follow all the compass points.
A Definition of Inclusive Design by Artur Ortega

The Importance of Inclusive Design

Rob Jackson added during Q&A that there are 10 million disabled individuals in the UK, thinking about this in terms of conversions means that roughly 1 in 6 of your users could be unable to access your product (service) if you have not considered inclusive design.

Open source was a huge change for disabled users, enabling individuals to change products based on their needs caused a dramatic shift in disabled friendly programs.


Written By
Ned Poulter is CEO & Founder of Pole Star Digital, a Digital Marketing Consultancy he runs alongside a number of entrepreneurial ventures. He spends his time developing and overseeing digital strategy for a number of well reputed international clients, developing creative approaches to achieving organic search results, increasing inbound traffic,...
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