As web design continues to grow and adapt, we’re now facing a time when it’s necessary to design with the intention of being inclusive. The term is “inclusive” design, which is a concept not all designers or DIY website builders understand.
Some believe inclusive web design means making a website more accessible. While this is a part of inclusive design, accessibility does not fill the entire meaning of inclusivity. And there are some who use these terms interchangeably. However, the two types of design are entirely different.
The Difference Between Inclusive Design and Accessibility
What’s the precise difference between accessible design and inclusive design? Accessible design deals with creating a website and elements that are accessible to everyone. This means people who have disabilities of all types, including visual, hearing, and other issues. Accessibility deals with UI.
On the other hand, inclusive design makes a website universally available to everyone. Website designs are made to appeal to a wider group of site users, with the goal of creating a friendly UX for a broader range of people. Inclusive design definitely encompasses accessibility, but it also extends the usability and appeal of the website to a much broader audience. Inclusive design has more to do with UX than UI.
What is Inclusive UX?
It’s essential to understand what an inclusive UX looks like in order to bring inclusive design into real-world use. When creating an inclusive user experience, designers must create a site, an app, or another digital experience, which serves a wider range of users.
In the past, websites, apps, and more were geared toward a specific target audience. These days, however, designs need to appeal to a broader audience rather than being based on a single, specific persona. The goal is to help users have a great experience and find value in their experiences with a specific brand.
Most users should feel comfortable on the site no matter their location, disabilities, religion, race, gender, age, and more.
What Does Inclusive Design Look Like?
Here are some examples of what inclusive design looks like in the real world. Remember, the goal is to make everyone feel welcome and have a wonderful user experience.
In the past, forms were used that required information about the user. The forms may have included gender distinctions that were not inclusive. At one time, there were only two choices of gender. Today, this is considered non-inclusive.
Instead, forms that require gender information offer other options for site users. One of these is the answer “prefer not to say.” This response can be used for gender, race, married status, and more. Giving people the choice of disclosing personal information or not is an example of inclusive design.
Another example is allowing site users to access a site through their own language. This way, a site user is better able to understand all content on the site, rather than relying on a tool such as Google Translate. Google Translate has its place; however, it’s not always accurate. But giving a site user the ability to read through a website in their own language provides more comfort, understandability, usability, and more. This improves the site UX by making the site/app to a broader number of people.
Inclusive pronouns on a website also make more people feel welcome and comfortable. For instance, in drop-down menus, it’s possible to include pronouns in a form field. This allows site users to choose pronouns they identify with and use each day. This is a wonderful way to welcome the LGBTQ+ community. They will know that whoever follows up with them will use the correct pronouns.
The use of pronouns can be carried even further to using non-gender-specific language throughout the content on a website. This is another way to welcome site users and make them feel included.
Each of these examples currently exists in the real world. They’ve been accepted and embraced by site users who once felt rejected or not included. These are ways to appeal to a broader audience through website design and UX.
How to Implement Inclusive Design
Now that you’ve seen examples of what inclusive design can look like, the next step is implementing inclusive design in your own projects. Here are some ways to begin implementing inclusive design:
1). Draw from Real Life
When drawing from real life, consider that the traditional personas created for targeted audiences are too specific and narrow for today. What’s more, these traditional personals contain high levels of bias, which are no longer appropriate or acceptable. It’s best to leave these outdated personas behind and instead draw from real life.
Real-life means learning to include those people who are usually under-represented. It’s best to gain information, insights and suggestions from actual users. You’ll have a chance to gain a broader perspective while also learning how to incorporate their needs and preferences into your design process.
2). Inclusive Design is Part of Your Mentality and Practice
Some designers offer inclusive design as another service; however, this isn’t a service. Inclusive design is a part of your mentality and practice. This is a way of believing, which determines how you treat others. Rather than offering inclusive design as a service on its own, make inclusive design a part of all of your projects.
You can do this by not asking others to self-identify. Remember the forms in the example section above. This can be done with the “prefer not to say” phrase, offering a broader range of pronouns and more.
3). Design Flexibility into Everything
Remember to build accessibility into your designs, too. This is a part of inclusive design. This means including design elements that work for people with different types of disabilities. You may need to accommodate people who are blind, deaf, or disabled in other ways.
To ensure a website or app is truly inclusive, remember to incorporate elements that are useful for everyone. This may mean accommodating people who are colour blind, using large typography, and more. Ensure that most people can access the site or app, and you’ll have a successful design.
Ultimately, remember that inclusive design is a practice and way of living. Creating beautiful websites that are inclusive (and accessible) for most people is the goal. When site users have a wonderful experience, they’ll come back for more and spread the news about this wonderful, inclusive, beneficial site.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.