User-centred design

Advantages of inclusive design


Inclusive design involves developing products, services or environments so as many people as possible can access and use them.

User-centred design techniques are an essential part of inclusive design. They make it possible to:

  • understand the reality of people's lives
  • evaluate products and services as you develop them
  • ensure products or services are genuinely inclusive

The importance of inclusive design

Inclusive design is important for social equality reasons, but it also makes good business sense. For example, by the year 2020 approximately half the adults in the UK will be aged 50 or over.

With increasing age, most people experience multiple minor impairments in:

  • eyesight
  • hearing
  • dexterity
  • mobility
  • memory

An inclusive approach to design can help you seize important opportunities for business growth through new products and services that are accessible to all segments of the market.

Design against exclusion

An important consideration in inclusive design is to understand and quantify how your design choices may deter or eliminate potential users.

This design exclusion can take several forms. For example, your choice of design could be unintentionally excluding:

  • less mobile or dextrous users - for example, the elderly and disabled
  • less affluent users
  • users with less technological know-how
  • users from different cultures

The techniques of inclusive design and user-centred design are very similar. But instead of talking and researching with typical product or service users, inclusive design seeks out extreme users - the sorts of people who will demand the most from a product or service. For example, a bathroom fittings manufacturer sought out ballet dancers who needed precise bathroom lighting for performance hair and makeup. They chose to do this because these people represented an untapped market and would show that if they could easily use a range of products, then people with less specialised requirements could too.

Ergonomics is the science of designing spaces or equipment to fit the person using them. For advice on how ergonomists can help you identify and eliminate design exclusion and cater to new markets, see the importance of ergonomics.