Inclusive Design

Our communities are diverse – we live in different places, with different circumstances. We are old, young, live with disability and difficulties, and speak multiple languages; we are diverse individuals and communities. However, often goods and services are designed as if we are all the same.

Design that embraces diversity maximises widespread access and usability, meaning more people are included. Both individuals and organisations benefit from making inclusive design a standard practice.

People that have difficulty accessing and/or using products and services (edge users) are often not included in the design process. For example, have you ever lived in a town where your bank doesn’t have a physical branch? Or bought a microwave where the buttons are too difficult to press? How about not being able to attend university because the course does not offer an audio and/or visual component? These challenges are faced every day by people living in remote areas, the elderly, or people who have difficulty hearing and/or seeing, respectively.

Design flourishes best in environments that encourage learning, testing and iterating. This concept should be applied with consideration for user diversity; that is, young or old, physically or cognitively challenged, whether English is a first language or third; a person is included in design – where these cohorts’ optimum use of the product or service is guaranteed, and not left to chance.

Designers, companies, and government all have a role to play, by designing, investing and legislating with difference in mind, so that a design process that is inclusive becomes standard practice. There is clear evidence of the financial, economic and social benefits associated with including those that are left out in design.

Designing with our differences in mind does not limit the commercial potential of a product or service, in fact, it increases it – to consumers, designers and organisations alike. Inclusive design is a human centred or user centred design methodology that provides a framework to understand the needs, wants, and limitations of end users. It is a methodology that encourages and employs the principles highlighted above, to enhance the reach that companies and designers have on their respective markets. It encourages organisations to design products and services with input from edge users. This helps uncover additional efficiencies and potential that is often hidden when designing for the ‘majority’ takes precedent.

Inclusive design is a powerful source of innovation and creativity that leads to multiple demonstrated benefits – when designing inclusively, organisations can create exceptional products and services, which are available and desirable.

The world is rapidly transforming. Design can too.

This is an excerpt from the ‘The Benefit of Designing for Everyone report’ prepared by PwC Australia