Inclusive design for interaction designers

What things can interaction designers consider to help make services more inclusive?

Methods for designing digital services that are accessible to people with disabilities are well documented, but what if we take a broader view about how to include other groups who face barriers?

(Note, this isn't meant to minimise the efforts of web accessibility. But I'll try not to focus on that specialism in this post).

Reasons for exclusion could be related to peoples' protected characteristics, digital exclusion, and many other factors. Clara Greo and Sonia Turcotte have a useful list of oppressed and systematically disadvantaged people and communities in the UK in their weeknotes.

Things interaction designers can consider to help make services more inclusive

Here's my initial stab at a list…

  • Physical points in the journey
  • Multiple digital channels
  • Accessible formats
  • Multiple languages and bilingual services
  • Progressive enhancement and performance
  • Barriers and access needs
  • Co-design and co-production
  • Content and language

Physical points in the journey

For example, signs, physical products and printed documents.

Although the production of these parts of the service are probably going to be handled by other teams, an interaction designer may still be well placed to make sure these parts of the journey are simple, and consistent with the digital parts of the journey.

A Twitter thread about gender inclusive icons

Multiple digital channels

For example, PDFs, emails, social media, videos, podcasts.

Similarly to physical things, the production of these other digital assets may be handled by a comms team or a social media team, but an interaction designer can work with these teams and help advice on usability and accessibility best practices.

Accessible formats

For example, large print or easy read.

Multiple languages and bilingual services

Designing services that are translated into multiple languages can introduce layout, navigation and information architecture (IA) issues. It might make content management systems (CMSs) more complex too.

Designing bilingual services

Progressive enhancement and performance

As the GOV.UK service manual says, progressive enhancement can "help users with device or connectivity limitations to use your service".

Create assets that are lightweight, cross-compatible and reusable on other channels.

Avoid designing journeys that require large downloads.

Building a resilient frontend using progressive enhancement

Barriers and access needs

Focus on excluded people and communities. Understand the barriers they face.

Co-design and co-production

Work alongside people, communities and content experts.

Lend your interaction design skills to help prototype how other types of content and channels could work before they go into production.

What is co-design? A brief overview

Content and language

The words we use in the service and in our teams matter. Be careful to use terms that don't exclude people.

For an interaction designer, this could mean something like renaming the branch you're working on from master to main.


I'd love to improve this list, it's definitely not finished, so I'll add to it in future. Please let me know what I've missed. Also, thanks to the inclusive design team at UKHSA (UK Health Security Agency) – lots of this content was inspired by their work.