Digital inclusion should consider the full range of human diversity regarding culture, language, gender, age, ability, economic situation, and more. This makes it an ongoing process to not only be more inclusive but also learn what digital inclusion encompasses. It is a practice that evolves alongside your technology and mindset.
Here are some basic principles of digital inclusion to help you get started.
Begin With User Needs in Mind
Digital inclusion begins with thinking of users first and dropping all preconceived notions and assumptions about them and how they use digital products. When designers are aware of their biases, they can avoid them and begin to see technology from the eyes of diverse users.
User research is an essential part of the design process. Most new features start with a “user story,” which describes how a visitor will use the feature. But, too often, user stories don’t include people with varying needs. By conducting user research with a variety of users with differing abilities, user stories will be more inclusive, and so will the resulting design.
Improve Access and Don’t Make Things Hard
Not everyone who uses your products will be a native “netizen” or have the same type of internet access that you do. Things that may seem simple to average internet users may be an obstacle to others.
- You may only allow sign-up with Google, and many of your visitors may not have a Google account.
- Your site may work on Wi-Fi and 5G, but it may not work on 3G. And what about 2G?
- Users may have to talk to an agent to set up their account.
These are barriers to use, and there are potentially many more. Inclusive design is a win/win for both you and your visitors because its goal is not just to make sure people can use your site but also to ensure that they want to in the first place. If it is too hard to use your product, they may not want to.
Motivate People With Something They Care About
When new features, new workflows, or new technologies are added to products they are used to using, businesses are essentially asking customers to build new digital skills. They have to learn to use the product or at least adapt to the changes. They will only do this if there is something in it for them.
There are still people who avoid the internet and other technology. For a company to do business online, it must find the hook for these people. This can be an interest, hobby, or something that demonstrates the value of your product in their lives. If users can’t see why they should, they may never use it.
Going online can be stressful for a lot of people. They may have heard about phishing, malware, ransomware, and other dangers they could run into. With all the data breaches that have happened in the last couple of years, this type of paranoia is natural.
Building trust can go a long way toward making a user of your product feel included and reducing their stress. This begins with protecting your users’ data like it was your own.
Users may not know what an encrypted connection is, but they know when their browser tells them something is wrong. Simple practices like ensuring that all sensitive data is encrypted and requiring complex passwords will make them want to use your products because it shows your business cares about security.
Work With a Team
Involving more people with different diversities in the development, design, and testing process is a great way to build more inclusive products. When the silos are broken down, it opens up the process to insights from a wider range of viewpoints. Exclusion can then be identified before development begins.
But some details might be missed. Beta testing by real users and actively asking for feedback will make users part of your team. When a business makes an effort to include everyone, its customers will notice and understand that inclusion is a journey and not a destination.
Focus on the Outcomes by Measuring Performance
Analytics and user experience monitoring can help a business understand what works and what doesn’t in its digital inclusion efforts. These tools can provide insights into which features of a product need to be improved to be more inclusive.
While this article is not meant to make you a data scientist, here are some examples:
- The bounce rate is an indicator of user experience and can be lowered.
- High response times on mobile devices might mean a product needs to be more mobile friendly.
Getting Started With Digital Inclusion
Becoming a digitally inclusive business is a journey that never ends. The principles above will help you get started thinking more about improving experiences for your customer’s specific needs. The simplest place to start is with accessibility.
By starting here, you can take a big step toward fixing some of the digital inclusion issues that could affect a wide range of your users, like:
- Non-existent or inadequate image ALT text: Screen readers use ALT text on images to describe them to the visually impaired.
- Inadequate contrast between text and background: If there is not enough contrast, it can be hard for the color blind, the visually impaired, or people using a mobile device to read your content.
- Pages and features that can’t be navigated via keyboard: Users who are motor or visually impaired may not be able to use a mouse or touchpad and depend on using the keyboard for everything they do online.
- Form fields with inaccurate or non-existent labels: Adding labels to form fields tells your user, as well as the screen readers used by the visually impaired, what they are supposed to enter.
And there are tools like Google Lighthouse that will jumpstart the process and point out the most glaring accessibility issues. Digital inclusion benefits both your business and its customers. Book a discovery meeting to find out how we can help you build more inclusive products.