Your business's IT help desk is the main interface between your IT team and the rest of the organization — and possibly your customers, too. As such, the help desk is a critical focal point for implementing processes that are as accessible and inclusive as possible to all potential users.
When you create an inclusive help desk, you not only make life easier for users who may otherwise have trouble obtaining support due to inaccessible help desk design or processes, but you also reduce the burden placed on your IT team. Your technicians can work more efficiently and systematically when the help desk is able to handle all requests from all users in a straightforward fashion, without requiring users to make special requests because ordinary help desk processes aren't accessible to them.
With this reality in mind, this article examines practices that can maximize the inclusivity and accessibility of modern IT help desks.
1. Offer Multiple Help Desk Support Channels
Help desks may be easier to run and cost less money if they require users to issue all support requests through just one type of channel, such as a web interface. But this approach reduces inclusivity because the channel you choose may not suit all users.
Some users may be better able to make a request over the phone, for example, while others communicate more effectively in written form. Some may want live chat, while others prefer the asynchronous nature of email, which doesn't require them to respond immediately to questions from IT staff.
2. Design Accessible Help Desk Forms
Whichever support channels you offer, it's critical to optimize their design for accessibility.
Web pages should adhere to HTML accessibility guidelines, for example. Interfaces that involve recorded video or audio should allow users to pause or replay content. Forms that users use to submit help desk requests should follow inclusiveness guidelines.
Ideally, these sorts of practices should apply across your IT organization as a whole, not just the help desk. But because the help desk is, again, the main interface between your IT team and the rest of your business, it's a particularly effective place to invest in accessibility.
3. Minimize Personal Data Collection
As a rule, if you don't need to collect personal data about users in order to handle a help desk request, don't collect it.
Not only does unnecessary personal data collection raise privacy concerns, but it may also introduce barriers to inclusivity — especially if you force users to do things like identify where they live or report their ages.
4. Internationalize Your Help Desk Interfaces
It's easy to assume that, if your business operates in one region or country, all users whom you'll need to support also come from that country, and that they therefore speak the same language. But that may not be the case. You may have users from other backgrounds who need to request support.
That's why internationalizing IT help desk interfaces is important. Although it may be unrealistic to offer help desk content in multiple languages, it's not that difficult to make sure that your help desk software supports characters beyond the standard English alphabet, for example, or to hire IT staff who can speak languages other than the primary language used within your organization.
5. Design Inclusive Help Desk Content
When creating help desk content such as videos or images that show users how to handle IT problems on their own, keep inclusivity in mind. Your content should be representative of your entire user base.
We're not talking just about videos or images that include people here. Cultural paradigms or concepts that are represented in visual content can also play a role in determining how inclusive that content is. So can the way you develop text-based instructions, which should, for example, exclude analogies or phrases that may not be recognizable to non-native speakers of your business's primary language.
Inclusive Help Desks Help More Than Just the Users
Inclusive and accessible IT help desks aren't just better for users. They also make for more efficient and effective IT teams – and better results for the business overall. For all of these reasons, it's worth building inclusivity and accessibility into your help desk design and operations.
About the authorChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.