What is inclusive design in e-commerce and why you should consider it
10.01.2022 - Read in 5 min.
One of the first questions I ask when talking to clients is: "who will be the end-user of your product"? Today, let’s flip the question: "who could potentially feel left out or excluded when visiting your store"?
In this article, I will discuss why the opposite of exclusion – that is, inclusion – is something worth paying special attention to.
What is inclusion?
The word inclusion denotes the social effort to embrace all individuals into a larger whole and demonstrate openness to those who have been excluded. Exclusion affects people with disabilities, dyslexia, the elderly, the non-heteronormative, women, people of different nationalities, religion, race, or people who simply don’t fit specific beauty standards. The inclusive approach involves dealing with feelings, and making sure your users perceive you as an open-minded business that treats them equally and doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes.
How to create an inclusive product and brand?
Offer them what they need
If it’s possible to expand your offer, consider introducing more specialized product lines. For example, if you’re running a grocery store, add products for diabetics, people with celiac disease, vegetarians and vegans.
In the fashion industry, the same goal could be achieved by offering more product options – e.g. trouser sizes suitable for people of non-standard body shapes (weight, height, etc.).
When adding such a product, make sure it’s presented on a model of this size in the photos. The buyer should be able to see how the garment looks and fits on such a body, rather than just on a 180 cm-tall, slim model.
There are, and always will be, very different types of clients. Meeting their needs will benefit both sides.
Inclusive registration forms
Brands increasingly realize that they can cause their users problems already at the very beginning of their journey – e.g. when creating an account. By offering just two options (female/male) in the “gender” field, you’re excluding a significant proportion of people. The Williams Institute estimates that approximately 1.3 million American adults are non-binary. When you include only the two most common / familiar options, you may put your store at the risk of being seen as an unfriendly place.
Without overthinking it, the best option is to add at least the “rather not say” option in the form.
What are the benefits resulting from such an approach? Showing that you acknowledge the problem is one thing, but if your newsletter is not personalized to the user’s selected gender, it may actually hurt your expected conversion rate. More granular options in the form allow for a better personalization of the newsletter. What’s more, some users may not want to be offered typically women’s or typically men’s clothes. However, due to the gender they originally selected in the registration process, they only see the offer personalized to one specific gender.
Finally, if you have no intention to use gender data in any way, perhaps you should consider removing the question from the form? It might decrease the time needed for registration and save people some frustration.
Inclusive visual communication – photos, illustrations
The inclusive approach can also be expressed through making sure your product photos and ads show people of different age, appearance, and nationality.
When discussing the topic of inclusion, it’s hard not to mention accessibility. Accessibility is a series of technical rules and criteria, described in the WCAG 2.1 standard. Compliance with the standard makes the website easier to use by people with physical or intellectual disabilities, and by the elderly. It is worth mentioning that for public entities (such as government organizations or public universities) such standards are obligatory, and non-compliance may result in a financial penalty.
History shows, however, that even well-known private brands have faced consequences for not following specific accessibility guidelines – in 2011 a lawsuit was filed against Netflix for failing to provide captions.
Taking care of accessibility is a prime example of a forward-thinking approach – each of us will struggle with some dysfunction or disability one day. It is estimated that there are about 4-7 million people with disabilities living in Poland.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people live with some form of disability, which is 15% of the world’s population, of which up to 190 million (3.8%) are people under the age of 15.
Still not convinced? There is one more thing – When you meet the accessibility criteria and the product is easier for the digitally excluded people, it will translate into ease of use for each of your customers – and thus result in an increased conversion rate.
“When you meet the accessibility criteria and the product is easier for the digitally excluded people, it will translate into ease of use for each of your customers – and thus result in an increased conversion rate.”
This sounds like a lot of work. To make it a little easier for you to make your online store meet the inclusivity practices mentioned in this article, I have prepared a checklist.
- Is the language on the website simple and understandable? (The simplicity of the language can be checked using dedicated tools, such as hemingwayapp.com).
- Is the text on the page legible? Does the page use contrast to improve readability? (Make sure there are no elements that are too grey, invisible or too small, etc. You can check your contrast with a tool such as: Contrast Checker, and at the design stage using dedicated extensions such as Stark).
- If you’re using videos, do they have subtitles?
- Does the store work well on older devices and slower internet connections?
- Is the store responsive? (Does the layout work well on different-sized devices, such as phones, tablets, different monitors?)
- Do all photos on the page have an alt text?
- Are texts e.g. on banners written in HTML rather than directly on pictures?
- Is the store easy to navigate for people using a screen reader and keyboard navigation?
- Do the forms include tooltips or textboxes explaining what data should be entered?
An example of the full checklist can be seen here.
What’s all this for?
Greater openness to the diversity of people and paying closer attention to the technical aspects of the online store will make it more accessible to customers. The overall user experience and attitude to the brand will improve as well, and ultimately translate into higher sales.
Sensitivity is becoming increasingly important for brands, as the world starts paying more and more attention to it. The good news is you are not left alone – there are proper standards to follow in the creation of digital services.
If you need support in the field of design or your current design requires an audit, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.