It’s impossible to design for 100% of users. That said, we should always aim to keep diversity in mind — from visual impairment, allergies to neurodiversity — especially when making design decisions. Questioning how accessible, effective and inclusive our work is will help us to shift design from good to great, and then to even better. That’s when we know that every design and subsequently every user will always benefit from our inclusive design approach.
These principles will help you to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments:
1. Equitable Use
— The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. Guidelines: Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users. Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users. Make the design appealing to all users.
2. Flexibility in Use
— The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. Guidelines: Provide choice in methods of use. Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use. Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision. Provide adaptability to the user’s pace.
3. Simple and Intuitive Use
— Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Guidelines: Eliminate unnecessary complexity. Be consistent with user expectations and intuition. Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills. Arrange information consistent with its importance. Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.
4. Perceptible Information
— The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities. Guidelines: Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information. Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings. Maximize “legibility” of essential information. Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions). Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.
5. Tolerance for Error
— The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. Guidelines: Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded. Provide warnings of hazards and errors. Provide fail safe features. Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.
6. Low Physical Effort
— The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. Guidelines: Allow users to maintain a neutral body position. Use reasonable operating forces. Minimize repetitive actions. Minimize sustained physical effort.
7. Size and Space for Approach and Use
— Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility. Guidelines: Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user. Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user. Accommodate variations in hand and grip size. Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.
Having an awesome idea, wanting to disrupt the status quo and aspiring to become a household name might be solid enough reasons to keep us motivated every day. Yet to build a digital product — to build a great digital product — also requires perseverance and hard work. A lot of it, in fact, if you don’t work smart.
It’s impossible to design for 100% of users. That said, we should always aim to keep diversity in mind — from visual impairment, allergies to neurodiversity — especially when making design decisions. Questioning how accessible, effective and inclusive our work is will help us to shift design from good to great, and then to even better. That’s when we know that every design and subsequently every user will always benefit from our inclusive design approach. These principles will help you to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments:
Aren’t we, designers — and in fact all creative minds — rather good at finding inspiration and being creative? We click through our favourite visual blogs, flip through pages of that well-thumbed book or venture to design stores and galleries. We learn where and how to look to get our creative wires sparking, landing on the next great idea.
As designers and problem-solvers, we are accountable for the ever-increasing importance of design as well as for the role it now plays in today’s life, society and innovation. It’s our responsibility to not only make design aesthetically appealing, but also to make any design solution — first and foremost — the best it can be.