An inclusive user experience starts with design.
Over the past few years, diversity and inclusion (D&I) have increasingly become a part of business planning and strategy. It is clear that inclusivity allows a platform to appeal to the greatest range of people: improving their chances of growing their audience and their revenues. However, a strong D&I program carries business benefits of its own. In fact, Deloitte reported1 that companies with an inclusive culture are:
- 2x as likely to exceed financial targets
- 3x as likely to be high-performing
- 6x more likely to be innovative and agile
- 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes
Not only is improving diversity and inclusion a strategic benefit for the business, it is also the right thing to do. Marginalized people have struggled for too long to be recognized within the status quo: and the push for inclusivity and accessibility is long overdue. D&I is now a part of corporate social responsibility, and a requirement by an informed, educated, socially responsible customer base.
Long-term business strategy for online platforms and publishers should include an intentional drive to improve diversity and inclusion - for the benefit of the users, and the business as well. Social platform interactions are intended to be accessible by the broadest audience possible - provided it is in line with community guidelines - and platform design should be aimed at improving that accessibility.
What is Inclusive Design?
Inclusive design takes the widest potential audience into account: identifying their needs and abilities, as well as their preferences, and ensuring that the user experience is purpose-built to accommodate them.
This represents a shift away from the ‘generalist’ approach of appealing to the middle ground and making the simplest possible product that will interest the largest segment of the population. Inclusivity by design involves making a more complex product from the start that will take into account people at the edge of the audience and make the product specific to them.
Why Start With Design?
By managing inclusivity from the design stage, a platform can basically ‘bake in’ accessibility and scalability from the start: a much more straightforward concept than trying to revise or adjust an existing design for accommodation. Moreover, by creating inclusivity by design a company can connect D&I to core values: strengthening messaging, marketing, and brand safety.
Tips for Inclusivity by Design
Start by identifying ‘stress cases’ - the farthest communities or rarest cases that the platform can reach. Often design is based on profiles of the most obvious potential customers: take into account the fact that these profiles may be exclusionary for marginalized demographics.
Include Situational Changes
Some variables can cause a temporary accessibility issue: for example, have you ever tried to check your phone in the glare of direct sunlight? Plan for stress cases that affect inclusivity on a long-term basis - but don’t forget the situational factors that may affect inclusivity in the short-term as well.
Designers are people, too: with their own biases and assumptions just like anyone else. Understanding how designer assumptions can affect product design, and how that impacts inclusivity, is an important part of inclusive design. Unconscious bias can be mitigated by ensuring that your design team is diverse itself, bringing multiple perspectives together.
Integrate with Empathy
At every stage, imagine how people throughout the audience will feel about - and react to - different aspects of the user experience. Again, intentionally building a diverse design team can help to improve inclusivity by design, bringing together a number of different points of view to ensure that the end product is accessible by as wide a group as possible.
Complete the Cycle
Inclusivity should be a part of the entire product lifecycle: integrated into the design, but also a part of development, testing, QA, deployment, benchmarking, and monitoring. This means having diversity baked into all the different teams involved, and that a culture of inclusivity allows everyone to express differing ideas and points of view.
Build Inclusive Teams
To be truly inclusive, a company must commit to creating, maintaining and improving inclusivity as a primary goal. D&I must be a part of how products and services are designed and distributed, and also in staffing key teams within the company. Diversity within these teams will help to impact and sustain an inclusive environment for a platform over time.
A company with the goal of inclusion should look to diversity in all areas, and the following steps can help achieve that end:
Create Community Policies
The team that creates community guidelines and policies should be diverse, as these policies drive understanding of acceptable behaviors throughout the platform. Acceptable behavior can vary greatly from one person or group to another, so it is critical to ensure that as many different points of view as possible are included in the policy conversation.
Manage Content Moderation
Moderators that review content, interpret policy and community guidelines in practice, and determine whether or not to punish violators should represent a number of different groups. Again, this works to expand points of view and dilute the effects of unconscious bias.
Benchmark and Review
In the interests of transparency, community guidelines and enforcement metrics should be analyzed regularly. On review, they should be measured specifically against the possibility that they are being enforced in a way that unduly impacts marginalized groups. Having a diverse group in benchmarking and review can help to ensure that groups and subsets are not overlooked upon review.
Of course, inclusivity is not a problem that can be solved with a single solution: instead, it involves commitment to a long-term, evolving process. If you are interested in learning more about inclusivity by design, brand safety, and the future of the digital world, check out Oasis Consortium.
The Oasis Consortium was created to advance the goals of promoting Openness, Accountability, Security, Innovation, and Sustainability across the digital world. We unite stakeholders to create actionable and measurable standards for the protection of online brand safety. Join the movement toward a better, safer internet.