Inclusive is a word you’ve likely heard tossed around a lot these days – from being inclusive to accommodating those who have previously been excluded, diversity, equity. It’s a popular term nowadays, and of course, as we now live in a world (or are slowly building a world) where regardless of who you are or where you’ve come from, you are able to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

So, what does that mean for your website?

Well, sit back, read on, and find out how you can be inclusive with your website and in turn, your business.

What is “Inclusive Design?”

At the core, Inclusive Design is about making something that is visible, accessible and welcoming to all, regardless of who they are and where they come from. How will you know if a site is inclusive? Well, the easier tell is when a website isn’t – you’ll know. Examples of exclusionary design may include:

  • Missing alt text
  • Tiny text that can’t be enlarged
  • Images that only show one ethnic group, gender or sexuality

If you’ve ever been onto such a site, you’ll likely feel unwelcome, if of course the exclusion applies to you. A good example might be going onto a clothes website and all the models only being one size, colour and height. For many it can be off putting and drive them elsewhere, where they feel included.

It’s important to note that as we talk about inclusivity, that it is not the same as accessibility. Whilst accessibility is as vital and important in your web design, a site can fill out all the accessibility requirements whilst still being exclusionary. Remember, inclusivity is about showing different genders, ages, nationalities etc. on your site.

Why is Inclusivity Important?

It’s probably obvious to most as to why inclusivity is important – especially if you’re a part of a group who has been excluded in the media for many years. Ensuring everyone has a right to be seen is vital today, and as a business it is part of your responsibility to contribute to that. It’s also important from a business perspective too as without it, audiences can feel alienated and tune out of your site and brand if they themselves feel excluded. Creating with everyone in mind improves your brand and image overall, thus attracting a larger audience.

So, how do you remain aware and ensure you are designing with inclusivity in mind?

The Top Guiding Principles of Inclusive Design

Check your biases

The first thing you need to do when designing with inclusivity in mind is to check your own biases and to be aware of them, and you will have them, we all do, we’re human! You are more likely to create for yourself and your own worldview above anyone else’s, which is entirely natural, but those biases could mean you’re excluding others from that creation in the process.

Know your audience

Getting to know your audience is also important and will help you with those biases too. Who are the people you’re creating for? What is important to them? After all, you should be designing your website for them. Think about sitting down and creating your ideal customer will help you going forward and will also ensure you’re not accidentally excluding your audience and in turn, turning them away.

Keep it adaptable

Keeping your site adaptable is an important part of keeping your audience too – giving your audience a choice in how they interact with your business and your website will help them to feel included. Users complete tasks in different ways, so your design should let them complete those tasks in different ways!

Celebrate diversity

Designing with diversity in mind gives you the opportunity to celebrate your diverse users and colleagues and celebrate them you should. It’s all well and good to have inclusivity in your design and business, but these groups will notice if this inclusion is sincere or not. They may ask why your site or product is inclusive and yet your employability is not for example – of course you should always take on the best people, but always ensure that at every step you’re reassessing your own biases and that they’re not ruling you over.

Remember why

You aren’t implementing inclusive design to simply fulfil requirements; you’re doing it to make a positive impact on real people and to provide them with a sense of belonging. Celebrate that. Remember, you’re not box ticking, you’re choosing to make a positive impact, so ensure you do that and consistently keep that focus on those you’re impacting.

When should you implement Inclusive Design?

To ensure your site or product is inclusive, you should implement those design principles as soon as possible. This ensures that people with different backgrounds and abilities are considered from the very start, meaning you can implement the effective research to do it properly and sympathetically. Being inclusive should not be an afterthought, it should be a part of your process from the beginning not just in your design, but within your business as a whole.