Inclusive design

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Kat Holmes wrote Mismatch, which talks about how many objects are designed with only one type of user in mind – right-handed computer mouse, pilot seats meant for people who are a certain height, etc – and how these objects lead to exclusion. She then talks about ways to design inclusively for all.

What I really liked about her perspective on disability, which is seen by a lot of people as a personal health condition is that she redefines it as a mismatched human interaction, and that those mismatches are “the building blocks of exclusion.” This definition reframes what normal is supposed to be. In fact, Kat says that there’s no such thing as normal.

No one is the “average.” We’re all a little different, and we all have different needs. Given that over 1 billion people in the world are “disabled.” Given that, it’s easy to see why designing for accessibility is important. It’s not just your grandfather that can’t read your font; it could be someone who is recovering from an eye surgery to someone who has 20/20 vision but is standing in broad daylight squinting at their phone.

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What UX designers do

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I’ve been asked what a UX designer does for the past 4 years, so I decided to list out the answer to “but what does that mean?”

  • we work with project managers, researchers and engineers to figure out what users need and why
  • we figure out what how and where users can access what they need by sketching, wireframing, listening
  • we drink a lot of coffee
  • we design interaction patterns that work with the target platform, product, branding, etc
  • we prototype these patterns and test them for usability issues
  • we iterate and fix problems
  • we drink some tea
  • we work with engineers to implement designs through assets, style guides
  • if we work at a large org, we work with lawyers, writers, visual designers, directors, designers on other teams, ux engineers, production designers, translators, accessibility-experts and program managers to make sure our work is aligned with everything else
  • if we work at a startup, (mostly likely) we are the researcher, the designer, the prototyper, the project manager and, occasionally, even the engineer
  • we look at everything for inspiration – design blogs, architecture, mechanical objects, fashion, app stores and bookmark what we find in our brains or in a folder somewhere
  • we occasionally can’t think of good blog post topics and end up blogging about this