THIS THEORY IS…There is always more learning and knowledge sharing to do when it comes to Inclusive design. Accessibility is an outcome. Inclusive design is a process. (NIST Digital Collections)

Whether your website will reach two, or two million people, the goal is for it to be usable by everyone who comes in contact with it.

That's why you should consider the Inclusive Design methodology when you're creating a new site or digital platform.

According to UX Planet*, inclusive design, "Enables people with diverse characteristics to use your product in a variety of different environments." This means that your product takes into consideration every scenario in which a user might access your site.

For example, all of the videos featured on your site should include closed captioning. That way a user watching your videos on mute while riding on a crowded train will get the same experience as the user watching your videos at full volume at home.

However, closed captioning isn't just an inclusive design principle. It's also a requirement if you want your site to be accessible.

When discussing inclusive design, it's also important to mention web accessibility. Accessibility is a core value of inclusive design but the two concepts are not the same.

Here are the differences between inclusive design and web accessibility, and how considering both can help you adopt a more inclusive mindset.

What's the difference?

As we just mentioned, inclusive design considers how a site will be used in multiple settings by multiple people. While accessibility means designing specifically for people with disabilities.

For example, social media platform, Twitter, introduced a night mode option for both mobile and desktop users. Night mode inverts the colours of the user's screen so that it's easier to view in environments with less light.

Twitter's night mode, considers the large chunk of users who might be scrolling the platform in a dark bedroom before bed, or at the movie theatre.

This is inclusive design.

Twitter is also accessible for the visually impaired, as users can choose to enable image descriptions in their account settings. Enabling image descriptions will give users the option of adding a description (or alt text) to every image added to their tweet.

Image descriptions are important for people who are visually impaired because screen readers cannot "read" images and rely on alternative text to describe a picture to someone who cannot see it.

This option is designed specifically for individuals with visual disabilities.

Uniting inclusive design and accessibility

Inclusive design is proactive. You create something based on the possibility of use. Accessibility tends to be reactive. You redesign something to meet the needs of specific individuals.

But when you unite the two together from the beginning, or at the conception of your site, you develop a completely inclusive mindset. An inclusive mindset understands that different needs among users exist, and embraces them from the start.

Adopting an inclusive mindset begins with educating yourself on your audience and their needs. Once you've developed concrete user research, you can use the information to influence your product.

The sooner organisations adopt an inclusive mindset the faster we can work towards a fully inclusive and accessible web.

*UX Planet

Big thank you to Alana at our friend ZivTech for her important collaboration on this blog. It's great to see our passion for inclusivity shared by others.


Written by

Justine Pocock

Head of Design