Inclusive design reveals ‘hidden’ problems

Next time you’re working to improve a digital service take a minute to look at the team you’re working with.

You’ll see a group of people with plenty of expertise in services and technology who are confident in using technology.

In other words, the service is being designed by a minority group that isn’t representative of the people who use it.

So our team goes out of its way to ensure that we listens to a diverse selection of users - every time we design a service.

Sometimes it may not seem important. But it always reveals problems that were hiding in plain sight.

For instance, in re-designing the expenses system for one government organisation, we put in extra effort to ensure we recruited a diverse group of users.

On the surface, we didn’t need to: these were all people at the same level, doing the same job. But taking an inclusive approach revealed an important problem.

Users who didn’t ‘come from money’, struggled with the bureaucracy and legalese of the expenses system. They often found themselves out of pocket and having to go through extra steps to get their expenses paid.

In other words, the expenses system undermined social mobility.

Our redesign successfully addressed this problem - and was an important ‘win’ for our client. But problems like this remain ‘hidden’ unless you make the extra effort to always recruit diverse groups of users.

The mandate is: make sure everyone can use the service.

So next time you’re working to improve a service ask this: are we designing for the ‘average’ user, or are we designing for diversity?

Experience Strategy Director of the Government Team