DESIGN FOR ALL: ASSISTED DIGITAL
In this series, we look beyond the trends to see how today’s issues are being addressed and the challenges they pose for the future. Our first look: Inclusive design.
When creating a service, an essential step is to consider who your users are, what they are trying to achieve, where they are having difficulty and what they want and need. Service design and UX teams are excellent at creating services that meet the needs of most users. However, there are groups who are inevitably excluded – and often not deliberately – they are excluded due to lack of awareness.
This is a fundamental flaw; after all, it’s just good business sense to make sure that everyone who needs your service can use it. There are many neurodiverse conditions that make it harder for users to complete tasks compared to the neurotypical; including dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.
10% OF THE POPULATION HAVE DYSLEXIA
Designing services for neurodiverse users should be a key consideration. These individuals sometimes need support – whether it’s because they lack trust in your service or the internet, lack the confidence to use an online service themselves, or find achieving tasks online difficult.
In our work we are actively engaging with neurodiverse users. Through our testing and awareness, these neurodivese conditions are being recognised and addressed far more successfully and with greater reach.
Many wrongly believe the neurodiverse are small fringe groups. This is far from true: 10% of the population have dyslexia, 1 in 6 have the reading age of an 11 year old and 6.6 million people in the UK suffer from dyspraxia. With 18% of the population over 65, we need to design for age related challenges that make using digital services harder. As we age, we develop difficulty with memory, problem solving, conversation, judgment and completing tasks. There is a large number of people who may have different needs that should be catered to, and that’s just scratching the surface. There is a large number of people who may have different needs that should be catered to, and that’s just scratching the surface.
1 IN 6 HAVE THE READING AGE OF AN 11 YEAR OLD
Discussion on this topic is nothing new, however there is still a lot to be done by companies outside of the public sector. Public services, particularly those provided by the government, have already started to adapt for broader ranges of requirements. The Government recognises that existing offline services can only be replaced with digital services if they work for everyone. Therefore, they have spent considerable time constructing a development methodology and design system to enable inclusive design.
More organisations need to be aware of the significant number of users who struggle to use their services. From a business perspective, tapping into this wider market should be a no-brainer – yet, while the challenge is relatively easy to understand, finding the right solution is not so simple.
“It’s easy to solve a problem that everyone sees, but it’s hard to solve a problem that almost no one sees.”
These challenges often slip through the cracks as they are taken for granted by neurotypical designers or users. However, it’s vital to take steps to recognise the unique difficulties facing these groups – if they can’t use your service, they won’t bother. In government, should users struggle to use a service they have no choice but to persevere. In the private sector, if users struggle, they generally give up and move to a competitor service. Government are duty bound to be inclusive; whereas in the private sector, this isn’t the case. Today, businesses are losing sales and pushing customers to competitors through poor digital inclusion.
From our perspective, organisations who are considering reassessing their accessibility need to get outside of their comfort zone and start to do things a little differently. As the creator of the iPod, Tony Fadell, touches upon in his brilliant TED talk, we get used to ‘the way things are’ as humans pretty quickly. Instead of being a hinderance, designers need to use this as an opportunity to question what could be better – and who is missing out. Through noticing ways to make products and services available to everyone, not just the ‘average’ demographic, we can continue to drive change for the better and appeal to a wider range of customers.
6.6 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE UK SUFFER FROM DYSPRAXIA
As with any set of complex requirements, there are no easy or ‘one size fits all’ solutions. It is only by adopting an inclusive user-centred way of thinking that you can make meaningful progress. Think about everyone you’re designing for, find the harder to reach users, the users that could be a customer if your service was more inclusive. It is essential that you understand how users with neurodiverse traits experience your service. This can only be done through close engagement and testing.
There is a lot more nuance to be explored on this subject – more than one blog post alone can cover. However, we’ll be sharing more insights into our work to help organisations be as accessible as possible, as well as specific considerations different user groups have and why. Ultimately, we believe that anyone looking to make a difference in this space needs to go back to one fundamental objective: making sure everyone who needs your service can use it.
We’ll be sharing some deep dives into this subject over the coming months, looking into the main challenges facing organisations across the public and private sectors when it comes to addressing user accessibility. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions give us a shout at email@example.com – we love to chat!