An attendee asked why I was interested in accessibility: Did I or someone in my life have a disability? I’m used to answering this question—to which the answer is no. A lot of people seem to assume that a personal connection is the only reason someone would care about accessibility.
This is a problem. For the web to be truly accessible, everyone who makes websites needs to care about accessibility. We tend to use our own abilities as a baseline when we’re designing and building websites. Instead, we need to keep in mind our diverse users and their diverse abilities to make sure we’re creating inclusive products that aren’t just designed for a specific range of people.
This echoes what I’m reading in Tragic Design: The Impact of Bad Product Design and How to Fix It by Jonathan Shariat and Cynthia Savard Saucier: “We shouldn’t wait until we or someone close to us needs it to start caring about accessibility.”
Manuel’s post contains a lot more on getting started with accessibility. Check it out!
It serves me as a reminder that inclusive design is about creating a diversity of ways for people to participate—good design is for everyone.
The 2018 Design in Tech Report from John Maeda is alive and kicking (I’m late to sharing this as it debuted at SxSW in March.) This year’s deck places a strong focus on inclusive design and artificial intelligence.
Computers aren’t good at inclusion. They’re good at exclusion, because they’re only based on past data. The business opportunity for the future-thinking designer is in inclusion. — Fast Company
I asked a whole bunch of designers what books, which weren’t specifically about digital or graphic design, inspired them.
Looking at the list I noted I’ve read four of the twelve books: 4, 7, 10, 12. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud is one where I’ve purchased extra copies and given them to friends, especially those who say “I’m not visual” or “I’m not really a designer.” It’s a fun format, different from most other books I generally come across.
The fact that I don’t see doesn’t mean I don’t think.
Inclusion has a clear meaning… This will mean shifting the framework for how people view disabilities. Previously disability was seen in one of two ways, either as a medical problem or a condition that evoked sympathy or pity. People have often asked me, “Have you tried to go to a hospital for your eyes to be treated?” They look at my lack of sight as the problem that should be solved. Or they see me only as someone to be pitied.
The human rights framework is meant to shift the problem from the person to the environment. The problem is not that I cannot see, but that my environment is limiting.
About this Inclusive Design series —Today (February 16, 2018) I’m giving a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’ve been publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. Read more about the series.
Inclusive and diverse teams make better, stronger teams — and these teams make better decisions. Because our work and thought patterns are influenced by our background and biases, working with a diverse group means not only fresh, new ideas, but we also counterbalance the tendency to design for people just like ourselves. A higher standard.
And that is why representation matters, not just to those who are represented, but to all of us. Because it expands our sense of what’s possible, and what we have reason to expect. —Cate Huston
For maximum learning and a broader perspective, not limiting yourself to your immediate team or company; seeking out a wide variety of inputs from mentors, coaches, and other advisors.
If your team is limited and you don’t have the ability to expand, actively seek out people with other perspectives to consult or act as project advisors, and give special consideration to their feedback.
As a company that wants to unleash the potential in every team, depicting people is especially important. How we represent the people who make up teams should be just as important. We’ve always known that the best teams are balanced; made of a diverse group of people with different backgrounds and perspectives, but our illustrations haven’t always reflected that.
The authors found that even though their team aspired to be more inclusive, how they represented themselves visually wasn’t keeping pace with the true diversity of the team.
Promoting diversity and inclusion within our brand is a persistent and multi-faceted effort. And it’s a challenge to depict diversity without it feeling merely perfunctory or symbolic until the reality of our industry truly represents the customers we serve and the world at large. More needs to be done outside of the brand to promote an inclusive workplace, but we’ve found that the results of constant vigilance and open conversation are worth the time and energy.
To truly represent our customers is something Automattic is improving — we still have a long way to go. If you missed the story about updating the WordPress.com brand illustrations to be more diverse, see Inclusive Design, Day 5/15: To See Yourself in Imagery — with illustrator Alice Lee and my designer colleague Joan Rho.
For a thorough treatment of this topic, I highly recommend reading and bookmarking “On Improving Diversity in Hiring” from my Automattic colleague Cate Huston. In this in-depth article, she shares her hiring expertise to build diverse teams, everything from onboarding and recruiting to specific tips and tricks during interviews.
This rule of thumb about stopping the behavior before someone is hired hit home with me as this is something I need to improve on personally. An off-color joke here, a comment there; I’m learning to speak up more when I notice these things.
A good rule for inclusion pre-work to diversity is to stop doing things you would have to change if the demographics of your team better reflected the demographics of the world. —Cate Huston
One practical tip shared by Cate that I’ve put to good use is Textio, a service to help make job descriptions more inclusive. I used it in 2016 to update the Excellence Wrangler job posting, replacing phrases like triage ruthlessly with triage efficiently.
Cate’s influence in the last year or so has helped me improve my hiring to be more inclusive, both in mindset and in practice. She’s inspired me to read more broadly, and think more openly.
For day 15 of 15 of inclusive design, the last day, I’ll share a recap of all the inclusive design learnings I’ve shared in this series so far.
About this Inclusive Design series —Tomorrow I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’ve been publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 14 of 15. Read more about the series.
Speed and connectivity should be considered be a major factor in exclusion. Just ride the BART in San Francisco. 😀
Joking aside, much of the world does not enjoy the wonders of high-speed bandwidth yet. Like William Gibson famously said, “The future is here, but it’s not evenly distributed.” Kansas City Google Fiber gigabit on one end, on the other Tegucigalpa less-than-Edge with wires hanging off a string.
As evidence of the disparity consider the “lite”* apps built by tech giants for markets where they want to drive adoption. The need for a reduced-weight experience in places with low-speed wired broadband and tenuous mobile broadband highlights the case of exclusion. Where large populations are left out of the “modern web” due to connectivity limitations, cost of entry, archaic device types, and many more reasons both cultural and political. (*Side note: what the heck is with that spelling?)
One story I noticed recently that mentioned speed as a leading tech market indicator involved WhatsApp’s growth in India even as Facebook lags behind them, via The Economist, January 27, 2018. Sluggish web app performance is a factor in Facebook’s lack of adoption in India. People who pay by the megabyte or gigabyte prefer to use a service that is leaner, faster, less bloated. They’re voting with their app choices.
In more ways than one, WhatsApp is the opposite of Facebook… whereas Facebook requires a fast connection, WhatsApp is not very data-hungry.
As a result [of this and other reasons], WhatsApp has become a social network to rival Facebook in many places, particularly in poorer countries. Of the service’s more than 1.3bn monthly users, 120m live in Brazil and 200m in India.
Extend the Benefits to Everyone
On the plus side, designing for speed brings about broad improvements to everyone else in the world. People should love the simpler interface with fewer settings and menus, alongside the bandwidth savings and reduced footprint for the app’s data storage needs.
Back to the trend of tech giants creating lighter versions of their apps. When I take a closer look at the apps like “Twitter Lite” and “Facebook Lite” — at first they appear to be primarily designed for speed on slow connections. Yet the changes bring a new and different experience to many people who are mobile-first or non-technical.
The design enhancements resulting in a simpler and more intuitive app extends the benefit to a wide variety of people. For example, better readability from larger text size and the usability win from simpler navigation and clearer labels. That sounds like something the AARP crowd would all buy or click on or subscribe to.
If you’re curious about the “lites” — here’s further reading.
With Facebook Lite, our goal is to provide the best possible Facebook experience to everyone, no matter their device or connection. And we hope that by sharing how we built the app, we can encourage more people to build for the next billion coming online. — via How we built Facebook Lite for every Android phone and network
The next billion coming online! Ambitious.
Is Calypso Fast Yet?
Goal: Calypso is the WordPress Lite.
Calypso designers also pay attention to the user interface, of course — recently we’ve made the text size larger and improved the color contrast for readability. My team at WordPress.com is now digging into label changes and interactions needed for a refreshed, simpler navigation for managing WordPress websites.
For those curious, we track speed improvements in Calypso on this data-rich website: iscalypsofastyet.com. And, we’re hoping to improve both the mobile web performance and the usability of the app even more in 2018.
In a blog post Speed is a key design attribute John Maeda highlights two strong voices in recent web history — speaking out on the value of speed and performance: Marissa Mayer and Lara Hogan. They’ve both been preaching this same topic for years. I’m sure today no one argues the pivotal role of speed in Google’s early success and how it led them to market dominance.
I’ve felt this slowness most times I travel, even in the US — in airports, hotels, taxis, trains. Most definitely when in other countries, because I’m limited by my data plan’s built-in speed limitation. Or, as when I visited a WordCamp in Nicaragua, the slow mobile “broadband” is the reality for everyone living there.
Keeping in mind much of the world now sees the web only through a mobile device. Which brings us to a message from Wapuu: Mind the mobile!
For day 14 of 15 of inclusive design, I’ll share behind-the-scenes details of the work Automattic designers put into our inclusive guide and checklist.
About this Inclusive Design series —In 2 days I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 13 of 15. Read more about the series.
I’d like to share another example of solving for one case, extending to many. This one comes from my team at Automattic. We’re called “Delta” — and we focus on making the editing–publishing flow for WordPress.com as smooth and pain-free as possible.
From our own experience, we know that publishing content to the entire world can be nerve-wracking! This “publishing confidence” experience started out with a specific case in mind: the WordPress.com announcements blog. With 43 million email subscribers as of the latest count, the authors at Automattic writing for this English-language blog never want to accidentally hit that “Publish” button before a new announcement is polished and ready to go.
That’d be a total disaster, right?
Fast-forward to 2017 — the Delta team starts revamping these same publishing flows as we upgrade many of the key features in the new WordPress.com interface. As we researched the pain points in the experience, we realized that this same feeling of anxiety could be shared by many other people. In fact, our customers often wrote in to request this exact thing for their own blogs.
There needs to be an “Are You Sure” button on the publish section, I’ve accidentally published a blog post too early so many times. — A WordPress mobile app user, writing it to support in 2017.
What if we could make a product change to reduce that same anxiety for everyone? Well, yes — it makes sense. The team also upgraded the blog post preview pane to add in a switcher for screen sizes — mobile, tablet, and desktop — to further improve the confidence in the end result.
Solving this in the WordPress.com editor experience means making it much harder to accidentally publish on any blog. The change enables all of our customers to breathe easier. Like us with the WordPress.com announcements blog — they can now feel more confident that the changes they’re sharing are ready for the world.
See also Publishing on WordPress.com for a project-level report on improving this publishing experience written by colleague Shaun Andrews.
For day 13 of 15 of inclusive design, we’ll look at speed and connectivity as an exclusion example. How the trend of “Lite” apps built for certain markets to drive adoption brings needed improvements to everyone.
About this Inclusive Design series —In 3 days I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 12 of 15. Read more about the series.
The “OXO Good Grips Story” is an astounding example of inclusive design, solving for one and extending to many. An opportunity that grew from one person’s kitchen solution into a $60 million business.
Sam Farber — who created Copco enamel cast-iron cookware in 1960 — later developed what is now the quintessential OXO kitchen peeler from seeing his wife struggle with the classic shape and size of metal kitchen tools. He solved her pain by creating an ergonomic and comfortable grip that even people with arthritis could use. Turns out everyone else loves it, too.
The idea was always, from the start, to make useful products for people of all ages and levels of dexterity. We can improve every day life for people, without them even knowing or thinking about it. — Sam Farber
Watch the video, “Objectified: Smart Design OXO Good Grips Story,” for a behind-the-scenes look at OXO’s product development process and inclusive mindset.
For day 12 of 15 of inclusive design, I’ll share about reduced anxiety when publishing to WordPress.com websites. A problem solved originally for one use case by adding an extra step for confidence.
About this Inclusive Design series —In 4 days I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 11 of 15. Read more about the series.
Making your app accessible to visually impaired users benefits all your users. — Ayesha Zafar on the Invision blog
Taking the principles of inclusive design from idea to action means changing how and what we design. A reminder that technical details matter as much as the intention.
Via the design.blog/inclusive checklist under “Building inclusion into designs” we see how this relates to accessibility, “There’s no inclusion without accessibility.”
The amazing thing about doing the hard work for universal access is that the changes benefit everyone. Design for slow bandwidth? It’ll load faster for all people.
Here’s the full text for this checklist section, for reference:
There’s no inclusion without accessibility. Accessible designs will present differently depending on the medium you’re working in; consider physical, visual, auditory, financial, and other factors as well as an individual’s temporary or permanent limitations to accessing each. Is your video accessible to someone with hearing impairment? Is your website accessible to someone with a low internet bandwidth? Is your copy readable by individuals with different education levels, for whom the text is in a second language, or who are new to the subject matter? The more contexts you consider, the more accessible and inclusive your designs will be.
On a digital product team it is everyone’s responsibility to have empathy for users and thus all users, no matter their ability, should be considered in the design process. — Ayesha Zafar on the Willow Tree Apps blog
Thank you, Ayesha. 💯
For day 11 of 15 of inclusive design, another example of “solve for one, extend to many — accessibility and usability considered first in the design: the story of “OXO Good Grips.”
About this Inclusive Design series —In 5 days I’ll give a talk on inclusive design at WordCamp Phoenix 2018. Leading up to the conference I’m publishing notes on voices, stories, products, and other resources: everything I’m learning about this emerging practice. This is day 10 of 15. Read more about the series.