“Universal design is the process of creating products/experiences that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities and other characteristics.” In the case of web and mobile UX, it is looking at the experiences and asking if they are simple, intuitive, flexible, require low physical effort to use, etc. It’s taking these considreations into account at the beginning of the design and development processes. This can be done through creating design and development standards that leverage the “7 Principles of Universal Design;” incorporating these principles into review processes; leveraging UX analytics and Voice of the Customer platforms to gain insights on where customers are struggling; and through inviting customers and employees to weigh in on the design and usability of the experiences we create.
Why should universal design be a priority now?
Over 1 billion people (15%) of the world’s population has a disability. If we look at the U.S., 1 in 5 (20%) Americans have a disability. These disabilities can be:
- Temporary due to pregnancy, surgery, cancer, etc.
- Something that develops over time due to aging or an accident – decreased vision, hearing, cognitive abilities, physical abilities (arthritis, paralysis, etc.)
- Something that an individual is born with – cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, color blindness, deafness, etc.
It’s also important to note, that this population has ~$175 billion in discretionary spending and that a single bad digital experience can lead to individuals of this population taking their business elsewhere.
While not everyone will experience a severe disability, it is important to note that as our population ages, vision, hearing, cognitive abilities and physical abilities decrease. That means a brand’s customers, who have been loyal to the brand for many years, will need user experiences that are evolving wiht them as their journey with the brand changes due to their changing abilities. If brands want to ensure that they are a partner in their customers’ lives, they must ensure their digital experiences grow and evolve with the changing needs of the customer or risk a competitor luring them away.