Inclusive Design: Why It Matters and Best Practices

Inclusive Design: Why It Matters and Best Practices

Welcome to the world of inclusive design, a powerful approach that aims to create user-friendly experiences for everyone, meeting diverse needs and breaking down barriers for people with disabilities or impairments.As an essential aspect of digital product development, embracing inclusive design not only expands your audience reach but also fosters brand recognition and helps boost SEO.

Key Takeaways

  1. Inclusive design is the process of creating user - friendly experiences that cater to a broad range of abilities, meeting diverse needs and breaking down barriers for people with disabilities or impairments.
  2. Embracing inclusive design not only expands audience reach but also fosters brand recognition, helps boost SEO, and promotes social inclusion and diversity values.
  3. The seven universal design principles should guide inclusive digital product development processes. Equitable Use, Flexibility in Use, Simple and Intuitive Use, Perceptible Information, Tolerance for Error, Low Physical Effort and Size/Space for Approach and Use.
  4. Incorporating best practices like well-structured content, clear layout designs with appropriate color choices alongside keyboard accessibility features are vital in producing equitable applications that meet customer-centric digital expectations.

Understanding Inclusive Design

Inclusive design is the process of designing products that can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, with a focus on incorporating diverse perspectives into the design process.

Definition Of Inclusive Design

Inclusive design is an approach to creating products, services, and environments that are accessible to the broadest range of people possible, regardless of factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, or ability.

It acknowledges that everyone has unique needs and preferences and aims to remove barriers by considering these diverse perspectives throughout the design process.

At its core, inclusive design seeks not only to accommodate various physical or cognitive limitations but also empower users through equitable experience and full participation in society.

A prime example is how curb cuts on sidewalks originally aimed at wheelchair users have since proven beneficial for bicyclists, parents with strollers, and delivery workers alike.

Inclusive Design Vs. Universal Design

Inclusive design and universal design are two distinct yet interconnected approaches to creating user-friendly products that cater to the unique needs of a broad range of users.

Inclusive design primarily focuses on the actual process of designing, involving active participation from diverse user groups, including those with disabilities and different cultural backgrounds.

On the other hand, universal design is an attribute of the finished product itself. The goal here is to create solutions that can be seamlessly used by as many individuals as possible without any modifications or adjustments.

An excellent example of this concept can be seen in public restrooms with grab bars installed for both seniors and people with mobility impairments. Though these two concepts share similarities in their objectives—promoting accessibility and inclusivity—they differ mainly regarding where they focus their attention: inclusive design emphasizes incorporating diverse perspectives throughout the development process, whereas universal design centers on ensuring maximum usability once a product is complete.

Why Inclusive Design Matters

Inclusive design matters because it helps businesses reach a larger audience, meet user expectations, solve diverse problems, build brand awareness, and improve SEO.

Reaching A Larger Audience

Embracing inclusive design is a smart business move as it allows companies to reach a larger audience, catering to the needs of individuals with varying capabilities and disabilities.

This approach not only enhances user experience for all visitors but also increases the potential market share. For instance, there are around 61 million adults in the US with some form of disability, according to the CDC.

Moreover, as our global society becomes more diverse and interconnected than ever before, neglecting inclusivity means missing out on untapped markets that could provide immense long-term gains.

Inclusive Web Design removes barriers such as language differences by offering multi-language support or providing localization features that adapt content according to regional preferences.

Meeting User Expectations

Inclusive design is essential for meeting the expectations of diverse user groups. By taking into account the needs and perspectives of users with disabilities, cognitive impairments, age-related changes, and vision loss, designers can create products that work well for as many people as possible.

Inclusive web design benefits all users by making it easier to navigate websites and quickly find what they need. For instance, providing alternative text for images or captions on videos not only makes a website more accessible to visually impaired individuals but also improves the overall user experience by making content easier to understand.

Solving Diverse Problems

Inclusive design is all about designing for diversity and providing solutions that can accommodate people with varying needs. By incorporating diverse perspectives into the design process, inclusive design aims to solve a wide range of problems faced by different groups of users.

For example, websites that use clear language and straightforward navigation can benefit people with cognitive impairments or visual disabilities. Additionally, products designed with flexibility in use cater to users who might have specific limitations due to their age or ability levels.

Building Brand Awareness

Inclusive design is more than just good practice, it's also essential for building brand awareness. By creating digital products that are accessible to a broad range of people, businesses can reach a larger audience and establish themselves as industry leaders.

In today's world, where social inclusion and diversity are highly valued, companies who make inclusive design a priority demonstrate their commitment to these principles.

Furthermore, designing websites with inclusive features like translation options and visual components will only enhance inclusivity.

Improving SEO

Inclusive design can also improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of a website. Search engines prioritize websites that have accessible and readable content, making inclusive design an essential factor for higher rankings.

By creating well-structured and readable content, keeping layout clear and simple, ensuring consistency across all pages, using alternative text for images, opting for inclusive copy, and picking colors wisely can make a big difference in SEO performance.

Applying these principles can not only make your website more user-friendly but also boost its visibility on search engines like Google.

Principles Of Inclusive Design

The seven universal design principles are essential to keep in mind while designing inclusive digital products.

The Seven Universal Design Principles

Inclusive design is guided by seven universal design principles that aim to create products and environments that are accessible to all individuals, regardless of their abilities. These principles include:

  1. Equitable Use: The design should be accessible and appealing to people with a wide range of abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design should be adaptable to the user's needs or preferences.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: The design should be easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience or education level.
  4. Perceptible Information: The design should present information effectively, regardless of the user's sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design should provide clear feedback and allow for mistakes without severe consequences.
  6. Low Physical Effort: The design should require minimal effort from users in terms of physical exertion or cognitive load.
  7. Size/Space for Approach and Use: The design should accommodate a wide range of body sizes, postures, and mobility levels.

These principles ensure that inclusive designs can benefit everyone, not just those with disabilities or impairments. By incorporating these principles into product development processes, companies can improve user experiences while supporting social impact and building brand awareness.

Benefits Of Inclusive Design In Product Development

Inclusive design in product development leads to enhanced user experience, increased accessibility, and greater innovation.

Enhanced User Experience

Inclusive design can greatly enhance the user experience of a product. By considering the needs and preferences of diverse users, companies can create more intuitive, straightforward designs that are easy to use for everyone.

For example, Microsoft's Adaptive Accessories were designed specifically with inclusivity in mind. Their Xbox Adaptive Controller is customizable to meet individual needs and allows gamers with disabilities to participate fully in video gaming experiences previously unavailable to them.

Increased Accessibility

By incorporating inclusive design principles into your product development process, you can increase accessibility for users with diverse abilities and needs.

This means that everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive limitations, can access and use your products effectively. For example, designing websites with clear navigation and readable content allows people with vision impairments to easily access information.

Similarly, creating audio descriptions or subtitles on video content ensures that those who are deaf or hard of hearing can also engage with the material.

Moreover, inclusive design emphasizes equitable application where all users must have equal access to the digital world's benefits without facing any barriers due to their disabilities.

According to a report by World Health Organization (WHO), over 1 billion people worldwide live with some form of disability; hence it is crucial for digital products like websites and software applications to be accessible as well as usable by them.

Greater Innovation

Inclusive design can lead to greater innovation. When incorporating diverse perspectives and needs into the design process, designers are forced to think outside of their personal biases and comfort zones.

This level of creativity can lead to new ideas that may not have otherwise been considered, ultimately resulting in more innovative solutions. For example, Microsoft's Adaptive Accessories line was created with inclusivity in mind by designing accessories for users who might have difficulty using standard devices due to physical limitations.

Additionally, creating digital products with inclusion in mind requires staying aware of cultural barriers beyond just accessibility concerns and actively involving users from various demographics throughout the design process until it ends up being user-centered design itself which is one way innovation gets fueled up as well on top priorities for UX professionals today.

Challenges Of Inclusive Design

Balancing diverse needs and allocating additional resources and time can be a challenge in inclusive design, but it is essential to ensure equitable use and straightforward performance for all users.

Balancing Diverse Needs

Inclusive design is all about balancing the needs of diverse audiences and ensuring that everyone can access and use a product regardless of their abilities.

This can be a challenging task, requiring designers to consider the unique experiences and perspectives of multiple user groups. One key approach to this challenge is involving diverse stakeholders in the design process, such as individuals with disabilities or those from different cultural backgrounds.

For instance, Twitter's inclusive design team included users with visual impairments in developing new accessibility features like alternative text descriptions for images.

Involving diverse perspectives not only leads to better products but also demonstrates an organization's commitment to equity and social responsibility. Additionally, gathering continuous feedback from users through research studies or usability testing interviews throughout the development process enables UX professionals to adjust designs based on audience needs continually.

Additional Resources And Time

Creating an inclusive design requires additional resources and time. To start, it's crucial to identify the types of exclusion that people face and involve users in creating a more equitable design.

Allocating additional lead time to implement these practices is essential for UX designers looking to create customer-centric digital experiences. Inclusive web design not only helps establish oneself as an industry leader but also outperforms competitors by attracting a broader range of customers.

Best Practices For Inclusive Design

Create well-structured, readable content, keeping the layout clear and simple while ensuring consistency throughout the website. Use alternative text for images and opt for inclusive copy that avoids exclusive language.

Create Well-structured, Readable Content

One of the essential elements of inclusive design is creating well-structured, readable content. When designing digital products, whether it be a website or an app, it's crucial to keep layout clear and simple while ensuring that the user can easily access information.

Additionally, incorporating enough white space between lines and paragraphs will help prevent cognitive overload for users with vision impairments or reading difficulties.

Good readability relies heavily on font selection too - typefaces like Arial or Verdana are easier to read than trendy but obscure fonts.

Keep Layout Clear And Simple

One of the crucial aspects of inclusive design is to keep the layout clear and straightforward. The aim is to make it easy for users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, to navigate a website or application with minimum effort.

For instance, if a user with vision loss uses a screen reader tool to browse the web or interact with an app, they may struggle to comprehend complex layouts filled with noisy backgrounds or low-contrast text.

By keeping things simple and using plain language in content creation combined with high contrast colors that allow individuals who use assistive technology like magnifiers can read clearly.

Ensure Consistency

Consistency is one of the fundamental principles of inclusive design. It refers to using similar elements throughout the design, creating a cohesive and predictable experience for users.

This applies to everything from font choice and color palette to layout and navigation.

One example of consistency in design can be seen in Adobe's suite of digital products. They maintain consistent branding across all their products, which helps users recognize familiar elements regardless of which app they're using.

Another way companies ensure consistency is by establishing style guides and brand standards that everyone working on the product adheres to, including UI/UX designers, developers, and copywriters.

Use Alternative Text For Images

Alternative text for images is a critical element of inclusive design. It's essential to provide descriptive and concise alternative text to describe the image so that it can be understood by screen readers used by people with vision impairments.

Adding alt text also helps search engines understand what an image is about, improving SEO. Providing appropriate alt text ensures equal access to information, such as memes or infographics shared on social media platforms.

In conclusion, designers should ensure that all images in digital products have accurate and thoughtful alt texts relevant to all users' needs.

Opt For Inclusive Copy

Inclusive copy is an important aspect of inclusive design. It involves using language that avoids stereotypes and assumptions about groups of people, and instead encompasses a diverse range of perspectives.

Including alternative text for images is one example of how to opt for more inclusive copy. This allows users with vision impairments or those who use screen readers to understand what the image represents even if they cannot see it themselves.

Additionally, designers should aim for clear, straightforward language that is easy to read and understand.

Pick Colors Wisely

The selection of colors is critical in designing inclusive and accessible digital products. For users with visual impairments, highly contrasting colors can make it easier to identify information on a webpage or application while putting similar colors side by side should be avoided as they may pose challenges for such users.

Additionally, visitors from different cultural backgrounds interpret colors differently, which could affect their understanding of website content. To ensure that the color scheme used is accessible to all audiences, designers should use tools like Color Safe or WebAIM to generate compatible combinations that offer an adequate level of contrast between foreground and background elements without impeding readability.

Don't Forget About Keyboard Accessibility

Keyboard accessibility is a vital component of inclusive design that should not be overlooked. Some users cannot use a mouse or touch screen due to physical disabilities, so including keyboard navigation makes it possible for them to navigate your website effectively.

For instance, consider people with mobility impairments who may have difficulty holding and operating a mouse or touching small buttons on a screen. Keyboard shortcuts like Tab and Enter help such users explore web pages without relying on visual cues, whereas intuitive navigation keys assist blind individuals via assistive technologies like screen readers.

Case Studies: Inclusive Design In The Tech Industry

Twitter, Asana, and Microsoft Adaptive Accessories are examples of tech companies that have successfully implemented inclusive design principles into their products.


Twitter is one of the leading social media platforms that prioritize inclusivity in their design. They offer various features such as filtering options, alternative text for images, and customizable font sizes to enhance accessibility.

For example, users can adjust their text size under the accessibility settings to make it easier to read for people with vision impairments or age-related changes. Moreover, Twitter also collaborates with assistive technology companies to integrate their software into the platform and ensure ease of navigation for users with disabilities.


Asana is a project management software that understands the importance of inclusivity and accessibility in their design. They modify color palettes to enhance visibility for users with visual impairments, making it easier for everyone to use seamlessly.

Asana's emphasis on inclusive design has resulted in enhanced user devotion to the product, user retention, and an improved brand reputation.

By incorporating inclusivity from the beginning of product development, they save time and resources instead of adding adaptations later.

Microsoft Adaptive Accessories

Microsoft has taken a bold step towards creating technology that is more accessible to people with disabilities by launching a range of adaptive accessories.

These keyboard and mice designs are equipped with features such as oversized buttons, touchpads, and wheelchair attachments that enable individuals with physical impairments to use computers more easily.

The company's commitment to inclusive design saw it partner with organizations for users who have motor control challenges or limited mobility in the development process.

Moreover, its support for 3D printed add-ons today means that everyone benefits from this approach, regardless of their abilities or circumstances.

Integrating Inclusive Design Into Your Product Development Process

Incorporating inclusive design principles into your product development process can help you create a more equitable and accessible user experience. Here are some steps you can take to integrate inclusive design into your product development process:

  1. Start with a diverse design team that includes people with different backgrounds, abilities, and experiences.
  2. Conduct user research and involve users from different demographics in the design process.
  3. Use inclusive design best practices, such as creating well-structured content, keeping the layout clear and simple, using alternative text for images, opting for inclusive copy, picking colors wisely, and ensuring keyboard accessibility
  4. Test your product's accessibility with user testing and beta testing groups that include individuals with disabilities or diverse needs.
  5. Use guidelines from organizations like Microsoft Inclusive Design Toolkit or the World Health Organization to inform your design decisions.
  6. Aim for equitable use by providing options that cater to diverse needs without compromising the core functionality of the product.
  7. Focus on flexibility in use by allowing users to customize their experience based on their unique preferences.
  8. Prioritize simple and intuitive use by creating an interface that is easy to navigate regardless of a user's ability level.
  9. Ensure perceptible information by using visual cues or audio feedback to communicate important information.

By integrating these practices into your product development process, you can create a more inclusive user experience that meets the needs of a larger audience. This not only promotes social impact but also improves brand awareness and SEO ranking while fostering customer loyalty.


Inclusive design is an important aspect of creating accessible products and services that benefit a wider range of people, including those with disabilities. By incorporating diverse perspectives in the design process and adhering to universal principles, businesses can build better user experiences, improve brand awareness, and enhance SEO.

Despite challenges related to balancing different needs and investing extra time and resources, best practices for inclusive design include using well-structured content, clear layout, alternative text for images, inclusive copywriting techniques, keyboard accessibility features as well as picking colors carefully.

Integrating these strategies into product development processes can help companies create equitable applications that are straightforward and intuitive for everyone to use.

Incorporating inclusive design principles aligns with corporate social responsibility objectives while driving greater innovation through collaboration on diverse product teams.


1. What is inclusive design?

Inclusive design is an approach to designing products, services or environments that take into account the needs and preferences of a diverse range of users, regardless of their age, abilities, cultural backgrounds or other characteristics.

2. Why does inclusive design matter?

Inclusive design matters because it ensures that everyone can access and use products or services regardless of their individual circumstances. This not only promotes equality but also has practical benefits for businesses as more people are able to engage with them and become loyal customers.

3. What are some best practices for inclusive design?

Some best practices for inclusive design include conducting user research to understand the needs and preferences of diverse audiences, using plain language in communications, ensuring accessibility across all digital platforms and testing designs with real users before launch.

4. Can inclusive design benefit all types of businesses?

Yes, absolutely! Inclusive design can benefit any business regardless of industry or size by making their products or services accessible to a wider audience while promoting social responsibility in the process.