Every developer can incorporate inclusive product design principals into the creation of software.
At the recent Microsoft Build Conference, Microsoft cloud advocates Rory Preddy and Henk Boelman led a session entitled “Driving Inclusion and Accessibility with Dev Tooling and AI Services,” which detailed exciting new ways tech is becoming more inclusive and more accessible. After demonstrating tools such as Azure Cognitive Services, which allows developers to use APIs to make apps more accessible to people with disabilities, Preddy and Boelman laid out five tips for developers who want to make inclusive products.
Here are their guidelines for inclusive product design.
1. Who Am I Building This For? Who Am I Building This With?
These are questions to ask during the software development process. For truly inclusive product design, the answer to the first question should be “everyone.” When it comes to the second question, while obviously everyone can’t be involved in the design process, the most inclusive apps bring in a wide range of people with differing abilities for UX testing.
To take just one example, Boelman urged developers to involve people with visual impairments to the design phase of applications. Including people with various disabilities during the early stages of development will ensure that you are on the right track and won’t have to go back to square one later.
2. Who Can Experience This?
Imagine a mobile game that’s entirely visual: It has no sound and no audio description of what’s onscreen. A person with complete loss of sight wouldn’t be able to experience this game in any way. Similarly, a game that relies on auditory cues and doesn’t include captions would be inaccessible to someone who is deaf.
Developers need to keep in mind that some people might be unable to experience their product fully or at all. Ideally, they should make changes accordingly so that everyone can experience the product. Examples of ways to ensure accessibility include alt text, captions, text-to-speech capabilities, and transcripts.
3. Who Am I Unintentionally Excluding?
If inclusive product design isn’t a consideration, developers can inadvertently limit the accessibility of their software. While these limitations are unintentional, developers should still be willing to take responsibility and revise their products.
User testing that involves people with a wide range of abilities should yield results that tell you who you’re unintentionally excluding. “Make sure everyone has a way of participating in what you’re building,” Boelman said.
4. Are Accessibility Features and Accommodations Available to Everyone?
We’ve all had the experience of endlessly searching through a website or app to find a particular option or feature. When it comes to accessibility features, Boelman has a simple piece of advice: “Don’t hide them.”
You don’t want people requesting for help to turn on captions, for example. The product’s design should make it obvious.
5. Learn From Feedback. Iterate.
Listening to user feedback and incorporating it into your product requires humility and a willingness to adapt. It’s crucial for inclusive and accessible product development.
Incorporate user feedback into new iterations. Doing this early in the process will ensure that you catch things before they become huge, intractable problems.
Incorporating these questions and tips into your software design and development process might create extra work, but it’s worth it to create products that can truly be used by everyone.