What it is, why it matters and lots of resources
🆕 Updated resource list: Feb 5, 2023 With the Internet, and the emerging metaverse, anyone can produce content and products that instantly have global reach. With that power comes responsibility to ensure products are inclusive and respectful of their global audience‘s diverse social identities.
People approach products and technology believing that a team of experts have implemented checks and balances to ensure the product was designed with them in mind. People expect to have experiences that have taken into account their product-relevant social identities — their disability, race, gender, skin color, age, size, language.
Skeptical that inclusivity matters that much? Here are some statistics:
- 10% of people worldwide identify on the LGBTQIA spectrum. (Source: LGBT+ Pride 2021 Global Survey)
- 15% of people worldwide live with some form of disability. (Source: World Health Organization)
- 44% of consumers worldwide feel they are not fully represented by the people they see in ads. (Source: YouGov, 2021)
- 46% of 18 to 29-year-olds in the US know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns. (Source: Pew Center Research, 2021)
- 49% of Gen-Z consumers, in the US, stopped purchasing from a brand that did not represent their values. (Source: Microsoft, 2020)
- 65% of consumers worldwide, say they prefer brands that promote diversity and inclusion. (Source: Kantar Global MONITOR, 2021)
UX, accessibility, inclusion, oh my!
UX design is research-based with the goal of creating optimal user experiences. Historically, UX pioneers and 1st wave thought leaders have not emphasized designing for a diverse range of user identities. So, UX design is often taught with little-to-no mention of inclusive design practices.
Accessible UX design minimizes barriers so that content and features can be accessed and used regardless of one’s permanent, situational or temporary disabilities in the areas: hearing, motor, vision, speech, and cognition. Since disability is only one aspect of identity, accessibility is one aspect of inclusive design.
Inclusive UX design minimizes alienating any product-relevant social identity: disability, race/ethnicity, gender, skin color, age, size, sexual orientation, language, etc. Inclusive design commits to the due diligence of learning about your users to ensure designs not only meet business requirements but also respect the needs and expectations of the diverse range of users the product serves.
When talking exclusively about accessibility, call it accessible design, not inclusive design. A product can be accessible and still alienate other product-relevant identities making the product ableist, mysogynistic, racist, heteronormative, cisnormative, xenophobic, ageist, body shaming, skin-tone biased, etc. Inclusive design is intersectional, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Why inclusion matters
When a design doesn’t account for a diverse audience, overlooked groups will encounter an alienating experience. Here are just a few examples:
The imagery used in marketing and advertisements is often the start of the users’ experience with a company or product. Showing two males for a software engineer job and a woman for a receptionist job reinforces societal stereotypes of gender roles.
This ad for deodorant with a White woman sitting on a bed in a white robe and text reading, “White is purity. Keep it clean. Keep it bright. Don’t let anything ruin it” screams racial bigotry. Colorism and racial oppression are known problems, worldwide, so there’s truly no justification for this type of design negligence.
When accessibility is an afterthought, businesses often resort to using accessibility overlays as a fallback plan. That little accessibility button in the bottom-right corner, it’s an accessibility overlay — a third-party tool that is supposed to improve accessibility. While it’s a noble attempt, a quick Internet search for “accessibility overlays” reveals how they are “deceptive,” “problematic,” and “can make access worse.”
Corporate cultural appropriation
Companies sometimes try to present themselves as being inclusive by designing products to celebrate diverse identities. Walmart’s Celebration Edition ice cream is a perfect example of this anti-pattern. They released a Juneteenth flavor to “Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope” and a Pride flavor as “A sweet celebration of pride and the freedom to enjoy together.” This is what happens when companies commercialize cultures and design for, and not with, the people whom they are trying to reach.
If you’re designing a product, ensure it’s at least tested… and considered in the context of someone as different from you as possible.
— Florence Okoye
Inclusive UX Design Resources
As UX professionals, our design choices can inspire, motivate, connect, empower, and support goal achievement. They can also alienate, offend, marginalize, misrepresent, and create barriers, which obviously is not a good user experience.
Questions to ask ourselves
- Does this reflect input from people who will use the design?
- Does this provide a welcoming experience to all it will reach?
- Is this void of cultural appropriation?
- Does this adapt for different context of use and environments?
- Does this allow people to personalize their experience for their needs?
- Does this help people achieve their goals efficiently, regardless of their ability?
- Does this build trust?
- Are we designing with, not for?
- Does this respect and make room for diverse identities?
- Who are we excluding?
- What outcome are we hoping to achieve?
It’s long overdue for UX thought leaders to normalize inclusive design as foundational to UX work instead of the occasional mention of it as a niche topic.
Since most UX education, industry leaders, and content creators tend to overlook inclusive design, here’s a list of resources for learning how to design inclusive experiences.
Inclusive Research Articles
- 6 Design Failures That Could Have Been Avoided w/ Inclusive Research by Jacquelyn Iyamah
- 10 Tips on how to get started with inclusive UX research… by UXinsight
- 10 ways designers and researchers can meaningfully engage with disabled people in 2023 by Alex Haagaard
- A case for (premeditated) diversity in UXR by Ernesto Peña
- Best practices for inclusive LGBTQIA+ research by Brenna Traynor
- Generative Research: Complete Guide to Running a Successful Study by Nikki Anderson, dscout
- How (And When) Should We Ask About Ethnicity… by Taylor Klassman and Tymmarah Anderson
- Proper use of personas by Anne Gibson
- Time to transition to Inclusive Personas by Molly Malsam
- Want to learn UX research? by Trina Moore Pervall 🆕
- When Equal Isn’t Equitable by Microsoft Design
Inclusive Design Articles
- 6 quick tips for designing inclusive forms by Trina Moore Pervall
- 6 principles of inclusive design by Lillian Xiao
- Age inclusive design — who cares? Everyone should! by Cyber Duck
- As a designer, I refuse to call people users by Adam Lefton
- Beyond binary: designing for gender inclusivity by Anna E. Cook
- Beyond empathy in design by Caitlin Chase
- Confront Colorism Guide by Do Something
- Context is the most critical aspect of alt-text… by Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
- Design thinking’s most popular strategy is BS by Tricia Wang
- Giving a damn about accessibility by Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC
- How to begin designing for diversity by Project Inkblot
- How to write an image description by Alex Chen
- Inclusive Design 101 by Tina Golub
- Inclusive design: digital equality for older users by H. Locke
- Inclusive design is the key to great user experiences by Trina Moore Pervall
- Intersectionality: a critical piece of your service and product strategy by Kate Matesic
- Learning to recognize exclusion by Lesley-Ann Noel and Marcelo Paiva
- Making the case for inclusive design by Sam Waller, Mike Bradley, Ian Hosking, and P. John Clarkson
- Making Inclusive Content: Content Creator’s Responsibility as Both Creator and Marketer by Jehan Senai Worthy
- Three Dimensions of Inclusive Design by Jutta Treviranus
- Trans-inclusive design by Erin White
- Urgency of Intersectionality in Product Design by Christopher Badaoui
- Usability for seniors: Challenges and changes by Nielsen Norman Group
- What We’re Leaving Out of the Discussion Around Inclusive Design by Kat Holmes
Inclusive Writing Articles
- 5 steps to inclusive writing for UX by Emerson Schroeter, Career Foundry
- 6 ways to get people using inclusive language by Ettie Bailey-King 🆕
- Inclusive UX Writing (Adobe) 🆕
- International guide to gender-inclusive writing by UX Content
- Why plain language and Plain English are different by Caroline Jarrett
Blogs & Vlogs
- Fighting Talk (Inclusive Communication, Ettie Bailey-King)
- Gemma Helyer (Accessibility, YouTube)
- Jadene Designs (Accessibility, YouTube)
- Inclusion (Apple Developers)
- Inclusive Design 24 (YouTube)
- Part of a Whole (Nicolas Steenhout)
- People Nerds
- User Interviews: Inclusive Research | Inclusive Design
- UX Research and Design Blog (Stéphanie Walter)
- W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI, YoutTube)
- 3 things you should know about about colorism Trina Jones, Duke University
- 4 Key Design Principles for Gender-Identity Inclusion Jess Mons & Lindsey Brinkworth, dscout
- Dear Designers…We Need to Talk About Race: How Colorblind User Research Produces Racist Design Alba Villamil, UXConf
- Design Thinking Is Bullsh*t Natasha Jen, 99U
- Designing for Inclusivity Liz Jackson, 99U
- Dysfunctional Systems: Digital Products and Addiction John Voss, Clarity 2021 (YouTube)
- Great design starts with empathy Jason Nam, Ted Talk
- How diversity in medical illustrations can improve healthcare outcomes Chidiebere Ibe, Ted Talk
- How Privilege Defines Performance Tatiana Mac, YouTube
- How to bust the harmful myth of the average user Indi Young, YouTube
- How to make design really inclusive Florence Okoye, Ted Talk
- How technology has changed what it’s like to be deaf Rebecca Knill, Ted Talk
- Integrating Inclusivity in Your Research Kat Chiluiza, UXConf
- Power of design JD Hooge, Ted Talk
- There is no average person; designing with intersectionality in mind Lee Dale, #id24
- UXR with Participants with Disabilities Sheri Byrne-Haber, UXConf
- What Did I Miss? The Hidden Costs of Deprioritizing Diversity in User Research Megan Campos, Mad*Pow, YouTube
- Who doesn’t love bikes? Designing for users with contradictory needs Sarah WR, YouTube
- Why design should include everyone Sinead Burke, Ted Talk
- A11y Project
- ARIA Authoring Practices Guide
- Access Guide
- Accessible Social
- Biased by Design
- Deceptive Patterns
- Design Ethically
- Designer’s Critical Alphabet by Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel 🆕
- Ethical Design Guide
- Eventbrite: Inclusive Research | Inclusive Design
- Humane by design
- Inclusive Design in Southeast Asia
- Inclusive Design Principles (accessibility principles)
- Inclusive Photography Guide (Google slides) 🆕
- Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkits
- Mismatch — Inclusive Toolkit
- Self-Defined (open source dictionary of social words & phrases)
- Tarot Cards of Tech (inspire conversations about design impacts)
- University of Cambridge Inclusive Design Toolkit
- W3C: Web Accessibility Initiative
- Web Accessibility in Mind
- Web accessibility for designers (infographic)
- Accessibility Fundamentals (Deque University)
- Color and Cultural Connections (LinkedIn Learning)
- Digital Accessibility Foundations (W3C)
- Disability & Digital Media: Accessibility, Representation & Inclusion (EdX)
- How to design for an aging population (Interaction Design Foundation)
- How To Design for Accessibility: for UX Designers (Udemy)
- IAAP Certification (International Association of Accessibility Professionals)
- Inclusive Tech: Breaking Bias in Tech (LinkedIn Learning)
- Inclusive UX: Designing Websites for Everyone (Reginé Gilbert, Skill Share)
- Introduction to Accessibility and Inclusive Design (Coursera)
- Introduction to Digital Accessibility (AbilityNet)
- Introduction to Web Accessibility (EdX)
- UX Foundations: Accessibility (LinkedIn Learning)
- Web Accessibility (Udacity)
- Accessibility for Everyone by Laura Kalbag
- Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble
- A Web for Everyone by Sarah Horton & Whitney Quesenbery
- Beyond the Sticky Notes by Kelly Ann McKercher
- Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter by Charlton D. McIlwain
- Building for Everyone: Expand Your Market With Design Practices From Google’s Product Inclusion Team by Annie Jean-Baptiste
- Cross-Cultural Design by Senongo Akpem
- Deploy Empathy by Michele Hansen
- Design for Real Life by Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher
- Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need by Sasha Costanza-Chock
- Disability Visibility by Alice Wong
- Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers by Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Tobias, et al
- Inclusive Design for a Digital World by Reginé M. Gilbert
- Inclusive Design Communities 🆕 by Sameera Kapila
- Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming by Dr. Kishonna Gray
- Life and Death Design: What Life-Saving Technology Can Teach Everyday UX Designers by Katie Swindler
- Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Holmes
- Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin
- Ruined by Design: How Designers Destroyed the World, and What We Can Do to Fix It by Mike Monteiro
- Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
- Design Better (hosts: Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery)
- InEx (host:Matt May)
- It’s About Time (host: Nigel Prentice)
- Latinxs Who Design (host: Michel Ferreira)
- What Is Wrong with UX (host: Laura Klein)
- Radical AI Podcast (hosts: Dylan and Jess)
- Revision Path (host: Maurice Cherry)
- Technically Speaking (host: Harrison Wheeler)
- Tech Wrap Queen (host: Thee Renee Reid)
- User Defenders (by Jason Ogle)
- axe DevTools (Chrome)
- WAVE (Chrome, Firefox, Edge)
- Can We All Go: plus-size models
- Disabled and Here: disabled people of color
- Equivalent Design: accessible SVGs
- Gender Spectrum: trans and non-binary models
- Jopwell Latinx Collection: Latinx millennials
- Nappy: Black and Brown people
- Senior Living: older adults
- xFrame: Asian people
- API Who Design
- Blacks Who Design
- Brazilians Who Design
- Design Buddies (inclusive design community)
- Filipinos Who Design
- Indians Who design
- Latinx Who Design
- Queer Design Club
- Rita Creative Lab (inclusive tech & design community)
- Where are the Black Designers
- Women Who Design
People to Follow on Social Media
- Alba Villamil (Twitter)
- Anna E. Cook (Twitter)
- Chris Thoms (Twitter)
- Derek Featherstone (Twitter)
- Eric Bailey (Twitter)
- Gemma | Helyerstudio (Instagram)
- Harrison Wheeler (Twitter)
- Jadene_Designs (Instagram)
- Inclusive by Design (Instagram)
- Indi Young (Twitter)
- James | TheApexChaser (TikTok)
- Jeff Zundel (LinkedIn)
- John Voss (Twitter)
- Kat Holmes (Twitter)
- Kevin Bethune (Twitter)
- Laura Klein (Twitter)
- Lily Zheng (LinkedIn)
- Lizz Horvath (Twitter)
- Lynn Bolden (Twitter)
- Matt May (Twitter)
- Miguel Makes (Twitter)
- Nick Finck (Twitter)
- Nicolas Steenhout (Twitter)
- Regine Gilbert (Twitter)
- Samantha.UX (Instagram)
- Sara Soueidan (Twitter)
- Sarah Fossheim (Twitter)
- Stéphanie Walter (Twitter)
- Trina | UX For The Win (Instagram)
- Vivianne Castillo (Twitter)
- Whitney Hess (Twitter)
- Clarity (2022 event | 2023 event: TBD)
- Inclusive Design 24 (past talks | upcoming: Sep 20–21, 2023)
- UXRConf (Jun 6–8)
- Web Accessibility in Mind (2023 event: TBD)
How can we design great experiences if we rely on our assumptions about people or we only engage with people who look, think and navigate the world like us?
Recognizing that our actual audience may be broader than our target audience and our assumptions about them are likely wrong, is a great first step in inclusive UX design.
Let’s stay curious, think broadly and design responsibly.
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