Knowing your customer
Most products and services are generally designed for the average user - a typically healthy, right-handed, white, young male. In fact the ‘average’ user represents a minority and is not representative of the wider population. People will be excluded from this group in one or more ways.
Better products and services
Is it helpful to treat your customers as average? If they do not fit into the mainstream they can find the designed world more difficult. People are diverse and design needs to understand this. Inclusive Design creates better products and services by expanding your definition of the mainstream and by acknowledging that we can all be excluded.
Going beyond disability
There are many forms of exclusion. It is not just about physical disability, though this is the one that we most commonly think about. The following paragraphs explain how we can be excluded by age, ability, gender and culture, but this list is by no means exhaustive. We can also be excluded geographically, financially, socially, and in many more ways beyond that.
Older people are routinely ignored as consumers or active members of the economy yet they are a majority market. A target age group of 18-35 year olds in fact excludes most of society today. We are all ageing, and designers and business will need to understand the increasingly active and independent lifestyles of older people.
Disability is not limited to wheelchair users. There are a wide range of conditions that can be disabling. These can be major or minor, temporary or permanent. They can also be sensory, physical or cognitive in nature. This can include short sightedness, loss of hearing, having a broken arm, being pregnant, being tired or even having allergies.
Women are under-represented as consumers yet are key decision makers for most household purchases. Products and services that do not include women represent missed opportunities. Women are a prominent and influential driving force in today’s society.
Immigration and migration are increasing the ethnic and cultural diversity in most major cities. It is important to consider the needs of people whose language, values, meaning and associations may differ from your own.
We can all be excluded
In different situations, everyone can be excluded and find the designed world difficult. The concept of the average user does not fit the real world. By taking into account the many ways that we can be excluded it is possible to meet the needs of the widest range of people. What you should aim for is mainstream solutions, not mainstream users.
Diagram explanation - looking at extremes cases can improve the norm
The bulls-eye diagram represents the total potential market that you could appeal to and includes a variety of people across it. Most companies focus on the centre of the target, the mainstream user, typically a younger, healthy person. By including people in the outer rings you can broaden your focus while still appealing to the people in the central rings.
People can no longer be simply defined by factors such as gender, age, disability or cultural background - lifestyle, values, attitudes and personal ethics all play a role.
The bulls-eye diagram represents the total potential market that you could appeal to and includes a variety of people across it.