The importance of Inclusive Design: Voice bots for enhanced accessibility

By Marcus Robinson on August 30, 2019

By Marcus Robinson

August 30, 2019

User needs are hugely diverse, but the majority of the products and services we use are designed as though we’re all the same.

Inclusive design is a user-centred design methodology that provides a structure around the needs, desires, and limitations of end-users. This methodology allows design to flourish in an environment that encourages learning, testing and iterating, and ultimately enhances the reach that of companies and product designers. However, it's not standard practice at most companies, where accessibility is often an afterthought.

Solve for one, extend to many

Why inclusive design?

Inclusive design isn't only the right to do. It also helps grow your audience.

Companies can reach up to four times the size of their intended audience when they design a product or service with the unique needs of users in mind according to 2019 whitepaper from PwC Australia. Even with a figure this significant, far too few companies are investing in inclusive design processes to increase commercial success and inspire innovation. Examples of products that are designed with edge users in mind are now used by the ‘majority’ of consumers abound:

  • Subtitles were created for the hard of hearing, but now they are used by a range of people who are in noisy places, need translations or want to increase concentration. A recent UK study found that 80% of people that regularly use subtitles were not hard of hearing at all!
  • Dropped curbs on sidewalks and ramps were also designed for users with disabilities, specifically wheelchair users. Nowadays, it's impossible to imagine our cities without them if you're pushing a pram or suitcase.
  • Electric toothbrushes, probably the least assuming thing on this list, were created for patients with limited motor skills but are now used globally by individuals who do not experience motor skill difficulties.

Adding Voice to the Accessibility List

Another addition to this list is – voice technology. Smart speakers, smartwatches, voice assistants that are embedded in smartphones, are all products that ultimately provide access to people who struggle to use key input but are still being marketable to a broad group of users. The opportunities that voice opens to vulnerable communities and edge users in areas such as finance, education, and personal independence are unlimited. It is time to let go of traditional design approaches and begin to expand your market reach to increase revenue and also create a positive social and economic impact.

The world is rapidly transforming. Design should too.

The traditional design approach is still the current gatekeeper of design. Where this type of design persists, inclusion and access remain uncertain. Design that considers the full range of human diversity – ability, language, culture, gender, age, all forms of human difference – shows that the transformative nature of the world around us is supported by design, not limited by it. There is great value in products that are user-focused and voice technology is a leading innovation.

By embedding voice functionality in your website, mobile app, or social media platforms, you are essentially swinging the gate wide open for edge users. Suddenly, your product or service will be widely accessible and you’ll truly be providing for the ‘majority’. Plus, the best part is that all other consumers can benefit from voice technology too because 'inclusive design' is exactly that - inclusive.

Smart speakers, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, are revolutionary for the vision impaired. The devices allow for these users to connect with society on an equal footing through the power of voice. Conversational platforms do the same; chatbots are sometimes seen as annoying or frustrating to use, but they are also often able to be controlled by voice commands. Instead of having to hunt through a site to find what you are looking for, which people who do not suffer from poor vision take for granted, a conversational bot is able to find what you need using simple instructions.

Activate Inclusive Design in your Company

It is common knowledge that for a business to succeed they must be comfortable with and flexible enough for change. Innovation and disruption are constant waves, especially within the technology industry.

Voice technology is the future, and it's already disrupting industries. It creates a pathway for vulnerable communities that are so often excluded within retail, financial and social aspects of everyday life, and now it is on businesses' shoulders to create greater customer satisfaction through embracing inclusive design to benefit all your users.

If you're interested in finding out how Stackchat can help your business through voice, get in touch with the team today.

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