Inclusive Design – What it is and how to apply it

Inclusive Design – What it is and how to apply it

Over time, inclusion and diversity have been getting more and more attention. There is a gradually growing concern to discuss ways to integrate and guarantee rights to diverse groups of people, with all their particularities.

Within this movement, inclusive design has a big role to play: we need to understand how to improve the user experience for everyone, including those in vulnerable groups.

What is inclusive design?

As the name implies, inclusive design is about inclusion. The goal is to put people first, as the center of creation. It is of utmost importance to make it possible for any user to have a pleasant and fluid experience without major difficulties.

It is most common for us to associate the term “inclusion” with accessibility, thinking of some kind of physical disability. However, inclusive design goes further: aspects such as ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture, etc. are taken into consideration. — all groups that experience a process of exclusion by society.

The professionals involved in the creation of a service or product, whatever it may be, have a duty to study the obstacles that users may experience and look for ways to eliminate them.

In order for us to better understand how this works, let’s look at the principles of inclusive design:

1. Know the target audience and its challenges

It seems obvious, but there is no way to create alternatives and solutions for inclusive design without knowing the target audience and the points that require adaptations. When you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, recognizing their privileges, it is much easier to understand what they need in order to enjoy an experience with quality, usability, and accessibility.

Therefore, an exercise in empathy is indispensable: evaluate situations from the perspective of your target audience, taking into account the challenges that they have to face in performing that task. How can you make an image “visible” to people who don’t see? Putting descriptions with details. And how can a person who does not understand the language used in the text or audio understand the message? With translation.

There are many possible scenarios and contexts, and that is why their study is very intense, but extremely essential! The main purpose is to make people who often suffer from exclusion understood by finding effective solutions to include them.

2. Offer an equivalent experience

Given the perception of the characteristics of each user and their possible needs, it is essential to think about how to create a similar experience for everyone. People are diverse and unique in many ways, and it would not be fair if one group could not have the same quality and efficiency in performing daily tasks or using a product, right?

3. Create a pattern

User experience is optimized when patterns are repeated. Understanding of commands, functions, and options is achieved more easily when there is consistency and commonality in design. This ensures efficiency and greater usability by empowering users, meaning they can understand how the product works and can use it with ease.

Standardization can be done by using established conventions, such as the use of commonly known symbols — an X to represent that the page will be closed, and arrows to go back or forward.

4. Opt for simplicity

Besides being standardized, it is interesting to design something simple and intuitive. Otherwise, the user may experience problems interacting with the interface. Remember that the idea is to enable people from different backgrounds, cultures, genders, ethnicities to consume that content, in the most universal way possible.

5. Provide options

Another way to enable user autonomy is to allow users to choose how to customize the interface according to their preferences and the circumstances of the moment. Making available configuration options such as font size, zoom, contrast, language, sounds, among the most varied possibilities, is fundamental so that users feel they have control over the experience, being able to adapt it as they wish.

We see examples of this in some websites, applications, and products. Creating options to change details can make a difference in functionality and usability for users. Nothing better than leaving everything the way you like it and that will be most useful!

6. Focus on content

It is one more way to make an interface easier to use. When you make it clear what the main content is, it makes it less complicated to understand the features and functions available.

You can’t focus on several things at the same time, so the ideal is to highlight the subject being dealt with at that moment and release the information as it is pertinent. This way you won’t leave the user confused with a whirlwind of ideas all at once.

7. Extend the solution to everyone

Imagine that a hearing-impaired person decides to watch a video. If there are no subtitles, she won’t have access to that content. However, if subtitles are available, she will be able to see and understand the video. But it is not only she who will benefit — someone in a noisy place who cannot hear sounds at that moment will also be able to watch the video.

This way, we can see that a solution designed for a certain group can favor another, improving the experience for everyone involved!

How to put it into practice?

It is important to evaluate what is needed to make inclusive design happen. If you have the right team and involve the user in the creative process, it will be much easier to achieve results.

A team full of diversity among professionals (with different cultures, social classes, ages, ethnicities, genders , skills, etc.) is one of the main steps to ensure that you will have people who really understand the difficulties and challenges experienced by users.

Moreover, the user himself has to inform about his needs and specificities. As we already said, users are the center of attention in inclusive design, so it is indispensable to listen to them: do interviews with them, test ideas, ask for feedback on the final result. Create a process where they feel that they are actually participating and are being respected.

Now come see with us some examples of inclusive design application:


Subtitles are intended to transcribe what is being said, and also to translate the content, increasing the reach of the material in video format.

YouTube is an example of a platform that allows video owners to put in subtitles. They can be in the spoken language or in other languages. There is also automatic transcription, enabled in some videos. To be able to activate the subtitles and choose the language, just follow the gif.


First of all, it is always interesting to first ask yourself why you are collecting certain data. Why does your user need to tell you this? Some data is super-personal, so it should only be addressed when necessary. If you come to the conclusion that this is important information, the next step is to figure out how to ask the question and then give a range of possible options for the answer.

Tinder has shown concern for inclusion by creating more alternatives in the field of gender identity and that of sexual orientation. In the first, you can do a search to find your identity. In the second, they give you some options and let you choose three of them.

Neutral language

In the Portuguese language, the rule is to use masculine terms to refer collectively to people of different genders, which has come to be seen as less than ideal. Still, some people do not identify with a specific gender. With this in mind, a neutral language was created.

Clue is an application that monitors menstruation. In their texts, taking into account the inclusion of individuals of all genders who menstruate, “@” is used in place of “a” or “the”. But it is nice to be aware of a criticism to this choice: many reading softwares cannot read words with this symbol, and this harms those who depend on these softwares to understand what is written. Therefore, the letter “e” began to be adopted to replace “a” and “o”. Some use the letter “x” as well.

Representativeness in images and illustrations

Users try to recognize themselves when they see images and illustrations. Representativeness plays a key role in making people feel welcomed and valued. Stamping standard faces and bodies prevents the connection between the brand and the consumer. There is so much diversity among human beings that there is no reason to represent a single group.

Clue also features illustrations with diversity, depicting people of different ethnicities and body structures. In games, representativeness can appear in the possibility of character customization, as in The Sims, with different traits and types available. Another example within the gaming world is the construction of a narrative with diverse characters, such as in The Last of Us Part II, where there is a lesbian couple.


You already know that inclusive design is not just about accessibility, but accessibility is also an essential part of the idea. Finding ways to tailor the experience for people with any kind of disability is a clear and undeniable goal of inclusion.

A very famous application for those with visual impairment is Be My Eyes. It acts as a support network so that people who can see can help those who cannot. Video calls are made for users to assist with daily tasks, reading text, and describing images. It is a way to connect and bring individuals together — the interaction between people with different backgrounds can only add, because it allows them to better understand the difficulties that each one has to face. It is nothing more than practicing empathy!

Evolve21 is an app that promotes an aerobic exercise, yoga, and meditation routine for people with physical disabilities, who end up being excluded from most platforms in this niche. The activities are designed for different types of disabilities by instructors who also deal with physical disabilities and can be customized according to the user’s abilities.

After looking at all these examples (and there are many more, but still not enough), you can see how impactful inclusive design is. It expands the product’s reach and fulfills social responsibility. But not only that, the perspective goes beyond commercial interest. It’s about having a significant influence on users’ lives, how they relate to each other, and what they value. Looking at the needs of others and encouraging conversations on the subject contributes to a more just and conscious society.

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