Final Master’s Project: Inclusive Design Methods

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There are many user research methods available today. Many are developed in an academic context, and are well documented in literature. But in many companies, especially smaller ones, the idea of user research seems foreign, costly and difficult [1]. While that might not be such a big problem for the majority of the user groups, there are some groups of people that are left out.

When designing a new product, be it a tangible one or interactive, it is so easy just to think about yourself as a possible user and design for that. But while you may be a sufficiently accurate representation of the majority of your users, you are probably not for users with challenges to their physical or cognitive abilities [2]. To avoid developing stereotypes and cliche ideas about these groups, it is of vital importance that actual users are involved in the design of the entire user experience, not just the interface, and in the complete end-to-end development process. We call this Inclusive Design [3].

To make Inclusive Design as easy and accessible as possible for smaller companies, a product or service is needed to help them develop their own Inclusive Design process. It could give an overview of such a process, help choosing suitable methods and provide design guidelines for specific target groups. The existence of such a service will not only help improve the quality of products and services already available to user groups with challenges, but hopefully also increase the amount of new developments that are accessible to them.

There are currently some toolboxes available [4], but none that advises on suitable methods for specific (cognitive) characteristics of target groups. Furthermore I believe the concept of a toolbox is a confusing one, since it implies you know what tool to reach for, and that you know what each tool is for so you can make an educated choice. In the case of inclusive design, the user of a toolbox may need more guidance and less choice, depending of the level of experience and knowledge of their target user group.

The toolkit I have in mind would be an intelligent, advisory, interactive system. Perhaps it can use analysis of a brand to recommend particular methods or design patterns, or it could gauge the level of experience with user centered design and adapt the offered information to that. I am inspired by data visualization techniques to make using the toolkit a unique experience.

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[1] Vredenburg K, Mao J, Smith P.W, Carey T, (2002) A Survey of User-Centered Design Practice. Proceeding CHI ’02  p471-478 doi>10.1145/503376.503460

[2] Cooper A. (1999) The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity. Sams Publishing, Indianapolis

[3] Cremers A, Neerincx M.A, De Jong J.G.M, (2013) Inclusive Design: Bridging Theory and Practice. Preprint, TNO Soesterberg.

[4] 55plustoolbox.nl, inclusivedesigntoolkit.com

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