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How to design UX for global inclusivity

Sheza Naveed

No two people are the same. Similarly, no two users are the same. A mindful design makes an effort to cater to people from all backgrounds, regardless of their abilities.

Google Design offers an extensive guide about how to design for global accessibility. Some strategies are discussed below.

Gain knowledge about communities around the world and their usage of technology

To achieve this, one needs to attend conferences and engage with literature that targets the population in an inclusive manner, catering to marginalized communities.

While conducting research, one needs to ensure that they are including marginalized populations in their research. The research sample should include people with different abilities to ensure that data from them is not missed.

Represent inclusively

Make sure that the design has inclusive representation. It should include diverse representation, such as people from different genders and races, physical abilities, and social classes.

For example, consider how a design caters to left-handed people and how they will interact with the product. Will they be able to interact with the product easily? Gain information about the local design language and include that in your design. As shown below, the interface caters to multiple languages.

Source: Google Design

Cater to different literacy levels and languages

Although English is the most common global language, not everyone speaks English. Make the interface translatable and test text flows in the app’s interface, as those are not the same for every language. For example, Arabic is rendered from right to left and takes up more vertical space.

Use simple language with short sentences to ensure that it is understandable for the maximum amount of people. Avoid complex hierarchal structures such as excessive drop-down menus, as there are greater chances for users to get lost in these.

In addition, minimize the need to search via text or type, as these are difficult for low-literacy and illiterate populations. Use voice typing, auto-completion, and browsable interfaces where possible.

Empower users regarding their privacy and security

Inform the users about their privacy settings and what personal information of theirs is being shared where. Provide transparency regarding the use of their data by third parties. Make privacy settings easy to understand, access and change.

Users should be allowed to carry out private actions such as private search, as well as access private modes and accounts easily on shared devices. Users should be able to report abuse and remove sensitive or triggering content. Users should also be able to backup and retrieve information in case the device gets lost or stolen.

Cater to modest devices

Not all devices have high-resolution displays and big screen sizes. Many people have to use devices that do not have these features, due to budget or other constraints. The layouts and rendering should be tested on smaller screens (less than 4 inches) and rendered on 480 x 800 px.

The app’s download size should be small, or a “light” version should be offered. Also, processes in the background that consume battery power should be stopped automatically, and deletion of content should be made easy.

Allow app usage in intermittent networks and offline

Make the app’s content available offline and offer meaningful forms of messages to convey the system status. Local caching, pre-caching frequently used content, and rendering content progressively can help reduce user frustration. We should test the app in airplane mode to simulate poor connectivity.

Low usage costs

Allow users to try the service or app for free. Keep the updates very relevant and minimal and provide control for data-heavy applications.

Environmental factors

Low contrast screens are hard to read in areas with continued sun exposure, so colors should be used accordingly.

Colors and design elements

Use intuitive colors that go with general convention and design elements that are understandable by the general population. As shown below, the colors used to complement each other are intuitive and do not go against the user’s mental map.

Source: Google Design

Inclusive and accessible design opens the gateways for populations around the globe to participate and use technology easily. A few design decisions and careful consideration of varied access can significantly improve user experience.

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Sheza Naveed
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