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Inclusive Design Advisor: Understanding the Design Practice Before Developing Inclusivity Tools

Emilene Zitkus, Patrick Langdon, and P. John Clarkson

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 8, Issue 4, August 2013, pp. 127 - 143


This paper describes an exploratory study investigating ways to accommodate inclusive design techniques and tools within industrial design practices. The approach of our research is that by making only small changes in design features, designers end up with more inclusive products.

Our research group examined how to enable designers to make design decisions toward more accessible products by observing and interviewing 20 experienced industrial designers. We also designed an inclusive design advisor tool that provided suggestions that designers could use to make more inclusively designed products. We asked the designers about their opinions of available inclusive design techniques and tools and their tendency to use those techniques and tools. We then presented our designers with the interactive design advisor tool built in Google SketchUp. Although the tool was in the very early stages of development, it exemplified an interactive way to supply designers with information about inclusivity. Through using the tool, designers were encouraged to talk about pros and cons of the tool. We also asked the designers to provide more detailed information about their current practices. The results confirm that tools, such as guidelines, user testing, and physical simulations, all have limitations that restrict their adoption by designers. Also, inclusive design advisors, such as the tool developed in Google SketchUp, could be accepted by the design community if the tool is tailored for each design domain and the tools that they use. Additionally, the designers highlighted that they would consider inclusivity if it is part of the design requirements. Moreover, they underlined the need for supplying inclusivity information to clients—who commission the project and who own the final product.

Tips for Usability Practitioners

We described an exploratory study investigating the industrial design practice in order to accommodate inclusive design techniques and tools. The following tips are recommended for those who may conduct exploratory studies with designers in industry:

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Inclusive Design Advisor: Understanding the Design Practice Before Developing Inclusivity Tools