All too often, as we go about our business, we’re rushed, overwhelmed and working hard just to keep up. Things happen how and where they can.
The ways we work are built on coffee and dreams.
When things are done well, often it’s by accident, not design.
So what? You might think. If it works, it works, right?
The way you work reflects what you value.
If this is true - and I’m beginning to think it is - what do your processes say about your values?
It’s easy for us to say that we value diversity, inclusion, accessibility. As long as we aren't saying or doing anything horribly ‘othering’ or problematic then we’re doing ok, right?
But it’s not intentional.
We’re sort of doing things well by accident, not design.
Seeing as we’ve already managed to get through about 150 words without one, allow me to take a slight tangent.
I once heard someone (I think it was Jameela Jamil?) talk about universally loved, kind of ‘neutral’ celebrities. You know, the ones that don’t share opinions. And certainly not on politics.
Do we love them because they are quiet and not opinionated? Probably not. It’s more likely that we love them because they can be whoever we want them to be.
As humans, we love to read intent into other people’s actions. So we fill these “empty vessel” celebrities with all sorts of ideas that they’ve probably never had.
They’re “good” (in our individual books) by accident.
But we have no way to gauge their actual intent.
The same thing can happen with content, business, systems, spaces etcetera.
If we don’t see something inherently othering, problematic or inaccessible, it’s easy to assume that it was created with intent.
But was it?
To do our best work for all people, we need our process, systems, business, content, spaces (I could go on) to be inclusive by intent.
If we’re relying on “good” by accident, what message does that send about our business...and how we value other people?
Intent and content. Some thoughts…
So how do we bring (diversity, inclusion, accessibility) intent to our content processes?
1. Consider inclusion as the process and the outcome
These ideas have been swirling around my head for the last week, but I didn’t know how to phrase them. This morning I sat in on a talk called ‘How we do our work matters’ (this article of the same name is by the presenter, Derek Fetherstone) and had so many lightbulb moments.
Derek (speaking on accessibility for people with a disability) warned against accessibility by accident. He said ‘Accessibility is the outcome. Inclusive design is the process’.
I think we can expand the idea beyond disability.
We need to actively respect and value the lived experience of people,
- With disability
- With different gender identities
- With different cultural backgrounds
- And on and on and on.
That means that when it comes to our content, we need to design with people, not for them.
There is a lot in this and I haven’t quite wrapped my head around all the possibilities yet. But, some initial thoughts.
For most of us, that might mean learning (and investing in that learning) from people with different lived experiences. Training ourselves on accessibility, inclusion, language, anti-rascism etc. For others, it will mean bringing a diverse range of voices to the table when doing research for courses, programs, next website or next product. And making sure those voices are heard, valued (ahem reimbursed) and respected.
2. Focus on user need (not business want)
The research helps us uncover need.
Focusing on user needs (not business wants) respects your audience’s ability to make the right decision.
An example. A small credit union knew that their home loan rates would never be the most competitive. They wanted to hide the rates away somewhere deep within their site.
Current home loan customers needed to check their rate from time to time. If they were checking because they were shopping around, adding the frustration of finding buried information wasn’t going to win the credit union any points.
Plus, most people are really going to need to see those rates before signing up for a new home loan.
It is not respectful to ignore your audience’s needs.
If we put the rates in a more findable place we’re helping the user. It’s good customer service. And it respects their ability to do the research they need to do to make the right decision for them.
3. Open up your words
A final reminder,
- Complex ideas do not need complex language
- Using simple language is not dumbing down, it is opening up.
- Dyslexia is estimated to affect some 10% of the Australian population (other English speaking countries estimate up to 20%, so this may be a conservative estimate)
- The greatest minds still get tired. Or get headaches. Or forget their glasses. Or get distracted. Or need to deal with an accented screen reader. Or any other thing that would be a barrier to comprehension.
Be intentional with your language. Use common words. Choose clear and kind.
What do you think? Is the nuance here I’ve skipped over? Does this bring any thoughts to mind. I’d love to hear your opinion.