By: Jayati
May 19 2019

Using Personas as an Inclusive Design Tool

Want to launch a business website? Is it in the planning stage and the design team is in a dilemma about how to make it accessible and inclusive enough? ‘Personas’ is the key word for you! 

a woman athlete on wheelchair


One of the most significant design strategies to emerge from the user-centred design movement in computing from the mid-80s, persona in UX Design is the characterisation of a user who represents a segment of your target audience. 

Personas are formed from extensive research to better understand individual who can be real/future users. Their issues and challenges are a prerequisite at the definition phase of a project itself. Where they are treated as references that ensure compilation of disabilities and the design decision is made in service of the personas that were identified. 

Specific characteristics, demographics, experience level, and personal details of an individual with disabilities are included while forming adaptive strategies for the product/service in question. Enabling designers, developers and evaluators across a project to keep a broad and diverse collection of stakeholders in mind, personas serve as behavioural models. Considering the needs, interests and daily tasks of non-obvious or non-traditional users. Personas can evolve with accuracy throughout the design process as new research emerges. 

Why Inclusive Design?

A design that is usable and enables maximum people possible to use the product, is called inclusive and eventually successful. When a diverse set of users with multiple perspectives come across a product/service, the reactions are naturally different and individualistic. Thus, organisations catering to million of users with one single design need to think about engaging users from different environments. The ultimate goal of an inclusive design should be to make people participate and gather wide spectrum of human experience. In order to achieve this, different communities and groups of minorities should help in identifying points of exclusion and explore possible solutions. 

Pyramid Model of Diversity 

pyramid model of diversity
Image Source: Inclusive Design Toolkit

Inclusive design vs Accessibility

Accessibility is commonly interpreted in terms of colour contrasts and font sizes. But taking the accessible design approach, one has to consider the needs of people with specific impairments too.

Accessibility in technology is one of the core objectives of organisation when catering their product/services to a large amount of people. But, inclusive design is a process or methodology incorporated to obtain that objective. The aim of accessibility finishes when people with disabilities are included and considered. But, an inclusive product makes sure that it’s usable to a larger diversity and allows fluidity.

Using Personas as an Inclusive Design Tool

A project requires keeping in check multiple stakeholders. Personas are backed by market research to represent the expected or ideal users we should be designing for. With hypothetical situations and conditions, you can shape the goal and solution for a specific persona according to his/her needs and wants: 

They are important for validating design decisions, prioritising features, and guiding your team. Here are a few scenarios and probable solutions: 

Deaf

Persona of Sarah, a deaf person and her goal


Solution: 

  • Make sure videos have captions or transcripts 
  • Hand-captioning is best, but automatic captioning is better than nothing at all 
  • Transcripts and captions are different and both are important 

Mobility Disability 

Persona of Lily, mobility disability


Solutions:

  • Plan out heading and page structure - making sense to all users and devices
  • Place important actions at the top or bottom of the page
  • Use skip links and don’t forget your focus indicators 

Colour Blindness

Persona of Harry, Colour blind


Solutions:

  • Make sure colour is not the only identifier 
  • Use tools to stimulate what your site or app would look like for different types of colour blindness 
  • Test colour contrast levels for grayscale too 

Blindness 

Persona of David, Blind


Solutions:

  • Turn on the “compose image description’’ on your twitter account: Setting > Accessibility 
  • Add context to image posts on all social media platforms 
  • Think about Alt text like a tweet. Aim to briefly convey as much info as possible 

Dyslexia 

Persona of Mike


Solutions:

  • Use an inclusive font in relative units like rems and ems 
  • Make sure to add enough margins, padding, and line spacing to your text 
  • Break text into small pieces or use bullet points/numbers

Individual Differences

Though everyone counts on accessibility and designers tries to include the most common disabilities but majority of them lose out on challenges that are out of their comfort zone. It is common to surpass the variability among users and not focus on the inclusiveness of others. But personas help to include them remind us about the importance of inclusive design. 

Conclusion

People are distinctive and diverse. We cannot place everyone using our products under the same umbrella. There will be different experiences, different expectations, and different preferences. Organisations should aim to be inclusive and bring unique identities to the forefront to create stories and pain points that can be solved in the product.

Want to design your product for an inclusive audience? OpenSenseLabs would look to guide you in your endeavour. Drop a line at [email protected]