Inclusive design involves putting people at the forefront of the design process. When software is inclusive by design, it allows for users across a broad spectrum of capabilities to meaningfully interact with it and accomplish necessary tasks in the ways best suited to them. Simply put, the more inclusive a digital experience is, the more people can and will use it.
The increase in legal action against non-inclusive user experiences has made it additionally important to make sure a product’s design is accessible for all customers and users. However, all threats of legal penalties aside, inclusively designed and accessible software is beneficial and important for both the company creating it, and the users interacting with it. Let’s explore some of the key benefits of inclusive design that demonstrate its necessity.
The idea of equity has taken center stage in most modern discourse, especially when it comes to designing something new. Equity simply means that every user, regardless of their background, can find software accessible to them. Failure to deliver on an equitable user experience creates negative legal and professional ramifications for any business. Where in the past it may have been treated as an afterthought, equitable access is now a requirement for software application design, development and testing.
With an increasingly universal need for an accessible software experience, there has also been an increase in the standards and regulations mandating inclusive design. While the moral importance of inclusivity is generally understood, the legal consequences of not providing it add extra motivation. One would think that this would be enough to ensure an airtight accessibility experience universally, but a study from earlier this year, which assessed one million home pages for accessibility standards, found an average of 50.8 Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) defects per page. This is actually an improvement of 10 fewer defects per page since 2020, but clearly more work needs to be done. When it comes to meeting modern accessibility standards, many organizations still need to make significant headway.
An overlooked benefit of utilizing inclusive design is that users in general, even those that don’t necessarily require accessibility features, see their overall experience improve. If a product is designed to be accessible for all, a high quality user experience and ease of use have been part of the software development process. In today’s digital age, a user-friendly experience is key. When an application isn’t easy to use, customers may quickly switch to another application, website and brand. The bottom line is accessibility features that seem to only cater to the needs of a few can ultimately create a better experience for everyone.
Expanding User Reach
When software is not accessible, think of how many potential users are being excluded. More accessible software means more users. More users translates to increased profit. By providing options for everyone to meaningfully interact with software, organizations and their software become accessible to a larger customer base.
When a company ignores digital accessibility and inclusive design, it can lose out on potential business, face legal action, and have its reputation tarnished. But on the flip side of the coin, if a company embraces inclusive design and creates an excellent, accessible user experience, it can positively impact its reputation. A company known for prioritizing inclusive design and valuing all of its customers is more likely to have a better brand reputation than one that does not.
Inclusive Design: Not Optional
Regardless of the size of business, or industry, inclusive design and accessibility need to be a priority today. From early in the development lifecycle to QA testing before an application goes into production, inclusive design and accessibility must be a permanent part of the process.