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What is Inclusive Product Design- BarrierBreak Approach

9 June, 2020 by Tanvi Dalvi

a group of people designing

Look around. Touch things. Explore forms.

Do you see or feel the bed or the chair you are sitting on, the phone or the laptop you are using, the jewellery you or your partner is wearing or the bottle kept on your desk? Have you wondered who designs these products or why they are designed the way they are?

Most of these products have been designed by a product or an industrial designer. While an engineer is responsible for designing the mechanical or the technical aspect of the product, a product designer is in charge of the usability and aesthetics on the product.

What is Product Design?

Product design is commonly defined as imagining and creating products that solve problems or address specific needs of users. A product designer using multiple user research tools identifies and records user specific problems and converts the 2D iterations into 3 dimensional objects using prototyping tools. A product designer’s main role is to create and iterate products to solve users’ problems or address specific needs in a given market. They aim is to improve the way that existing products work and look and/or produce them at a lower cost.

What makes a Product Design good?

Go back to thinking about the objects mentioned earlier. Would your product experience with the chair or the bed be the same had it been at a higher or lower level than its current level? Would the necklace be easier to wear had the clasp been different?

A product designer is able to churn out successful designs only by understanding of the end-user customer or the person for whom the product is being created. They attempt to solve real problems for real people by using both empathy and knowledge of their prospective customers’ habits, behaviours, frustrations, needs, and wants.

What is Inclusive Product Design?

Let us have a look at some of the products that we use daily to understand inclusive design. Do you think the way you use your computer or your mobile phone is the same way a person who is visually or physically impaired would use it? The way one user group uses a product differs in the way another group uses it and every design decision has the potential to include or exclude customers.

Inclusive product design emphasizes the need to widen the horizon, understand and incorporate differing perspectives of the diverse users using the product. This vast spectrum of diversity covers the user groups’ abilities, needs and aspirations.

Inclusive product design is fundamentally to provide alternatives for a person to the use the product. It aims to do so while making sure that the experience of using a product remains the same for all user groups regardless of their limitations. Inclusive design should be embedded in the design process and product.

For example. A simple addition of providing a raised line or a dot along with text on number 5 key on the number pad, makes it easy for a person with visual impairment to identify the key without affecting the overall user experience. 

Why is Inclusive Design important?

There are a large variety of user group with special needs. From people with visual impairment to hearing impairment, from elderly to people with physical and cognitive impairment. Although many a times, designers instinctively design for able-bodied users while neglecting the limitations and needs of people from the other user groups.

Failing to understand such a huge segment of population from varied age groups and experiences could cause unnecessary frustration and exclusion within the communities. This in turn could reduce commercial success because of the limited target audience and increase costs due to returns and customer support.

How do we do practice Inclusive Product Design at BarrierBreak?

We at BarrierBreak believe that inclusivity in product design is not only making something more accessible but also making it more usable. A good product designed keeping in mind all the varied user groups not only enriches the experience of the user but also, expands the market of the product.

We realise that while designs have to be inclusive, the product should not be too stigmatizing. If a product is targeted and labelled for a specific user group, it is stigmatizing for that particular user group and it might also prevent someone from outside the user circle from buying it as they might think it is only for someone with special needs.

We along with our product designer and accessibility experts, conduct user research of various products with different user groups in order to suggest design changes to make it inclusive and increase the market reach. Get in touch with our team if you would like to have a quick chat with our team to know how we can help you design an inclusive product.

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