How to be inclusive, not elusive: The 4Cs of product design

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A few weeks ago, we wrote about why inclusive and accessible tech remains elusive.

After the story was out, a couple of well-meaning readers pointed out two aspects in the piece that weren’t inclusion-friendly.

One, the story addressed only people with physical disabilities when Indian law recognises 21 categories of disabilities. Two, the accompanying visual didn’t bring about the best experience for people with colour blindness. Both issues were immediately rectified.

“Do you understand the pain of a product manager now?” said one of the readers who is also part of the product community in India.

We do.

Is there a way to reduce this pain? Yes, by addressing some key questions right at the product conceptualisation stage.

We put a list of some such questions based on our interactions with over a dozen inclusive and accessible design advocates from the product community, most of whom are informed by their own lived experiences as minorities.

The list, by no means a comprehensive one, broadly covers four areas, or 4Cs: Constraints, Context, Comfort, and Colour (in no particular order).

Constraints

Great products are about solving a problem better. “That rarely is a result of adding more features,” says Trip O’Dell, a Philadelphia-based product designer who is dyslexic. “It’s about working within the limits of human constraints.”

product design, what is product design, product design definition, basics of product design, product design process, wrote about, 21 categories, here
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“Many of the most legendary innovators like Thomas A. Edison, Albert Einstein, Bill Hewlett, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others have differences like hearing impairment, dyslexia, and autism spectrum,” adds O’Dell.

Context

A product recognising you—a minority—is powerful, says Kayla Love, a multiracial Black UX designer who identifies as a queer woman. “Language plays an important role in that,” she says.

product design, what is product design, product design definition, basics of product design, product design process, wrote about, 21 categories, here
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There is also ample material available now on how to make the language more inclusive and less invasive for people. Max Masure (they/them), a community-centred UX Researcher and an inclusion consultant, covered some of it in a recent blog post here.

Comfort

Product teams should reduce entry barriers like the affordability of smartphones and less savviness with tech, says Junaid Hashmi, an interaction designer based in Hyderabad.

product design, what is product design, product design definition, basics of product design, product design process, wrote about, 21 categories, here
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Colour

product design, what is product design, product design definition, basics of product design, product design process, wrote about, 21 categories, here
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Most of these questions can be answered by having a diverse R&D team.

As Lauren Celenza, an inclusive design advocate from Seattle, says: “Designers hold a lot of power in how the world is shaped.” For designers, especially those who come from dominant identities, therefore, “I think the first question to ask is whether you are the appropriate designer for the job?”

If you found this useful, here’s a TL;DR version of the entire piece in one graphic:

product design, what is product design, product design definition, basics of product design, product design process, wrote about, 21 categories, here
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