Not so long ago, computing was a luxury for the selected few. Just a small number of people had access to a computer and less so, to the internet. This changed dramatically after the release of the smartphone. Computing became more personal and people started using technology more than ever.

Today technology is all around us. Digital boards and public displays on the streets, self-checkouts in stores, computers in our workspaces, smart TVs and devices in our homes. This trend towards ubiquitous technology is quickly becoming the norm. Technology is becoming an established part of our everyday lives. With Internet of Things platforms such as Android Things, people are able to build their very own internet-powered device.

As we are designing in this world of devices and ubiquitous systems, we must take care to ensure everyone feels welcome in it. With different form factors and systems available, we need to make sure that we design our products in a way that everyone can use them, no matter of their background or technological abilities.

It is not just technological or environmental changes that we need to consider. People go through all sorts of changes all the time. Some through natural processes, such as pregnancy, growing older, loss of hearing or eyesight, but others may be due to an accident, such as a broken hand or temporarily losing your voice due to sickness. Products should be flexible to accommodate these situations, to such situations and provide as many different ways to using them as possible, so that everyone can enjoy them equally.

Inclusive design is not a specific process or a checklist that you need to complete in order to make your product more widely accessible. Inclusive design is the design philosophy that allows you to design products that fit as many user needs as humanly possible. Understanding the problems that people might be facing allows you to think outside of the box and deliver better solutions for everyone.

Take for example a TV show. As TV contents tends to focus on audio and visual, this means that not everyone can enjoy using the medium as it is. Closed captions were build so that people with hearing problems were able to enjoy video content despite their difficulty hearing.
Now think about who else gets a better experience through closed captions. It is not just people with hearing disabilities, but anyone in a very crowded or noisy place. TVs in places such as airports, pubs or gyms often have closed caption enabled so that people do not have to rely on everyone in the room to be quiet or the TV to be super loud for them to enjoy the show.

Some shows can benefit greatly from transcribing which is used in closed captions. A transcribed version of a show makes the content more flexible in terms of how it can be used. Having it as text allows you to read it on your own pace and time. You can upload it to your eReader so that you can read it anywhere you are. The same content can now be enjoyed by more people in their own time using the medium they prefer.

Inclusive design is opportunity to reach more people across situations, broadening possibilities and outreach. If this is something that interests you, join our Inclusive Design in Action workshop in MUXL London 2017 to learn more about how to design products for as many people as possible and make them better for everyone.

Preview Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

This post was also published on the MUXL2017 blog post.