Traditionally, products and services have been designed for a more generalized market, or an average person. It was thought that, by designing to general standards you could serve about 80% of people in a market, but this approach has a number of risks associated with it because there is no average person.
There is no average person, so we must design for the needs of the individuals who make up the diverse markets we serve.
The users of your products and services are individuals with ever changing needs, behaviour, and contexts of engagement. The most effective products and services are designed through a process of understanding how personal attributes shape the market.
Let’s take a look at these attributes
Considering how all of these attributes shape who each of us is is vital to delivering inclusive products and services. This mix of attributes is known as intersectionality. And it’s the foundation of inclusive design.
Intersectional factors to consider for your users
- Socio-economic status
- Sexual orientation
- Beliefs (religious or world-view)
- Living situation
Behaviour and environment
- Context of use
- Device type (e.g. mobile)
- Internet connection
The average person, in fact, incorporates a series of such attributes
Together, these attributes impact who each of us is, how we behave, and what we need on a daily and ever-changing basis. In other words: the average person is highly individualized, and prone to change, not part of some homogenous group that can easily be targeted or served.
Embracing individuals and diversity
Our inclusive design process puts diverse individuals at the centre of our work. We include and embrace a variety of people and perspectives from the start, ensuring you aren’t limiting the market for your product or service before you even get started.Through all of our product strategy and service design work, we advocate for a design approach lead by inclusive processes. This is essential to bringing products and services to life that work for and delight as many people as possible.
Our inclusive design process
An inclusive design process is all about setting a structure that welcomes diverse market segments to engage authentically with your organization. This can happen throughout product and service development, whether you’re looking to bring something new to market, or to improve an existing offering.
With this in mind, let’s look at the three key phases of product and service delivery where an intentional approach to inclusive design can have a measurable impact:
- Inclusive research and strategic planning
- Inclusive product or service design, development, and production
- Inclusive product or service validation and continuous improvement
Inclusive research and strategic planning
The earliest phases of a new product or service, or improving upon an existing one, starts with inclusive research and strategic planning.
Market and organizational research
Exploratory research includes interviews with users (to better understand their needs and goals when using your product or service), and interviews with stakeholders (to understand current state models of working, strategize how to meet your organization’s goals with a product or service offering, ensure team alignment, and uncover any gaps in people and process).
Throughout this phase of a project, we ensure a diverse range of voices are heard. Part of this process is being intentional about engaging with the variety of community members who make up your market. Our existing relationships and community outreach efforts consider members of LGBTQ+, indigenous, and groups of people with different physical and cognitive abilities, alongside our practices of ensuring representation by gender, race, cultural, religious, and economic factors.
Based on research insights, we develop a roadmap for design, development, and production.
As part of an inclusive design process, we develop this strategy by mapping out user needs, contexts of use, and behaviours, rather than focusing on demographics or traditional marketing personas. From these needs, contexts, and behaviours, corresponding use cases and product and service flows can be determined, along with an understanding of how different users from the market may be impacted by the product or service. This forms the basis of not just the product or service itself, but the language and positioning that can assist in driving engagement, acquisition, and retention.
When we consider the internal team, we look at individual work, digital maturity, team dynamics, and team makeup to understand where there may be process, resource, and capability gaps in order to develop a plan to overcome barriers of delivering rewarding inclusive experiences.
Case study: increasing the reach of services to the most vulnerable
Working with a number of Ontario Government Ministries alongside our colleagues at The Strategic Council, it was our responsibility to help each Ministry understand how they could leverage technology to better delivery services to the most vulnerable people in Ontario.
Our research included welcoming low income, disabled, jobless people to share their experiences and support needs, including understand issues and opportunities around in-person, digital, and phone access.
Through our efforts, we were able to understand and map out how these many varied individuals across the province could be better served remotely and in-person.
Inclusive product or service design, development, and production
Designing inclusively, from concept to delivery
Throughout the design process, we work through a series of inclusive design best practices to define experiences and outcomes that embrace users with a wide range of intersectional traits and behaviours, including considerations around identity, culture, and worldview.
As a part of this approach, our inclusive design process includes co-designing and reviewing in-progress work and prototypes with diverse users. This way, your product or service can excel at delighting all your potential users by ensuring these perspectives and needs are baked into the service model and user experience.
Better still, the inclusive design process reduces the total design, development, production, and support costs and risks when compared to a traditional product development process.
Accessibility for all as standard practice
As part of our inclusive design objectives, we work to design and develop your products and services with accessibility guidelines in mind. Not only does this approach open up new market opportunities by ensuring your products and services are functionally accessible for users with disabilities or other accommodation needs, but this approach helps improve access for all.
Inclusive product or service validation and continuous improvement
Throughout the planning and development process, we use ongoing user testing processes to improve the strategy, design, and experience, to ensure your products and services are serving the market in the most effective way.
In the context of inclusive design, this means being intentionally about who we are engaging with from the market. By continuing this process of speaking to and testing with diverse users, we can continue to validate choices that impact the full spectrum of the market.
The series of user testing methodologies at our disposal allows us to effectively uncover the most practical insights at each stage of the development cycle. Whether we are facilitating workshops, conducting interviews, running a usability test, surveying, or analyzing data, our ability to sort and synthesize findings, alongside our decades of technology and human-centered design experience, de-risks and accelerates any product or service design effort. With an inclusive lens added to this mix, you’ll have access to the most extensive validation processes available for vetting your products and services.
An effective user testing methodology helps you identify what’s working and what is limiting engagement across your digital ecosystem, ultimately making informed decisions on how to improve your digital ecosystem. We use a three-step process—Plan, Test, Analyze—to focus your team on the most impactful optimization efforts.
Across every stage of strategy, design, and development you have the opportunity to increase the value of your efforts. With continuous improvement, you can realize the benefits of better connecting with your consumer, driving them towards organizational goals, and optimizing your team’s efforts on an ongoing basis.