10 Tips on how to get started with inclusive UX research practice

The first UXinsight Unfolds UX research conference is a wrap! This year’s deep dive topic: how to get started with inclusive UX research. The purpose of the conference wasn’t to tell you why inclusivity is so important. Instead, our speakers and experts of experience shared insights on how to take positive steps towards research that works for everyone.

So, what practical tips did we take from Unfolds conference on how to build an inclusive UX research practice?

1. Start by educating yourself

Learn from existing resources about inclusion. Don’t expect members of marginalized communities to carry the burden to educate you. Seek to understand your privileges and experiences of those without them. Reflect on who your practice may be (unintentionally) excluding.

2. Build awareness in your organization

  • Start compiling and sharing resources on inclusion.
  • Find others in the organization who have experience with or are interested in inclusive UX.
  • Start a knowledge sharing/support group, e.g., inclusion-focused book club, Slack channel, sharing sessions.
  • Do exercises with your team(s) to reflect on your experiences and inclusivity.

3. Get stakeholder buy-in

  • Make a business case for inclusivity. Overcommunicate how the business benefits from inclusive design (e.g., appeal to a broader/new market, increase customer satisfaction, have a competitive edge).
  • Gently nudge quick wins. For example,talking about colour contrast could be an easy way to get a foot in the door with accessibility. Find the least intimidating way to start talking about inclusion. What are some simple steps your organization could take now without having to make massive changes (yet)?

4. Re-evaluate your language

  • Share your pronouns (if you feel comfortable doing so). You can add it to your email signature, LinkedIn profile and other relevant places (e.g., internal communication channels). Sharing your pronouns helps create a culture where it’s okay to share and not make assumptions about others’ gender identity.
  • Evaluate internal terminology in your organization. Notice when language excludes someone. Provide best practices and alternatives people can use to be more inclusive. For example, instead of “Hey guys”, use “Hey everyone” or “Hey team”.
  • Do an audit of the terminology in your product and communications. Start by evaluating the forms. Consult resources and best practices. Do research to understand which copy makes specific audiences feel excluded or misrepresented.

5. Re-evaluate your recruitment practices

  • Make an effort to recruit under- (or mis) represented groups. Start by gradually introducing new criteria or focus on doing research with a specific group. Consider when certain characteristics may be relevant – e.g., if they could affect people’s experiences and behaviour.
  • Remember that psychographic segmentation is often more relevant for user research than demographics since we focus on behaviour. For example, recruiting based on digital literacy instead of recruiting people based on age, assuming this age reflects digital literacy.

6. Try non-conventional ways to recruit more diverse participants

  • Find participants by tapping into your network. Think of your neighbours, friends, family, peers. Go outside your bubble – who do I know who might know someone else?
  • Seek research participants in your organization. Ask your colleagues with relevant experience for feedback (if they are willing and have the mental energy to contribute).
  • Go to events, conferences and organizations where your target audience may be.
  • Consider setting up a diverse panel yourself (if your context and resources allow for it) – for example, a panel with people with different disabilities.

7. Involve experts

  • Collaborate with researchers in target markets and those with relevant cultural/language experience.
  • Work with your accessibility team (if your organization has one). If you don’t have an accessibility team (yet), specialist organizations can help (see next point).
  • Reach out to experts externally to learn about best practices (e.g., Accessibility foundation in your area, LGBTQ+ support groups, etc.). For example, you could learn about best practices for asking about gender in your recruitment, surveys and product forms.

8. Make your research processes more accessible and transparent

  • Make your consent form more accessible. Simplify the wording and make it easier to scan. Work together with legal, UX copywriters and experts of experience. Draw inspiration from Accessible Information Standards. An accessible consent form can benefit everyone, especially people with disabilities, lower literacy levels and language familiarity.
  • Ask your research participants about their accessibility needs. Ask people if they have visual, cognitive, auditory, and/or motor impairments and use any assistive technologies. Be mindful of the language you use – it can vary across cultures/communities. Reach out to support groups or charities in your area to learn more about best practices.
  • Only collect relevant information about participants during your research, especially in recruitment. Ask yourself: Are you asking for sensitive information? Will this information help us understand more about the participant? (how) Do we plan to use this information?

9. Adapt research methods to accommodate specific needs

  • Consider the needs of participants. Online interviews can be technologically challenging for some people, while it may be challenging to travel to a research lab for others. People with disabilities may need an interpreter, and it would be best for them to use their own devices and assistive technologies. Consider how to accommodate that.
  • Use methods that are more accessible to participants. For example, try doing in-person surveys with people with lower digital literacy or limited internet access. Use WhatsApp for a diary study instead of downloading a separate app if your participants tend to use older devices with low storage capacity.

10. Remember: every bit counts when it comes to normalizing inclusion

  • Don’t do it alone. You can’t build an inclusive research practice on your own, and certainly not in one day. Starting with inclusion can be overwhelming. Find allies interested in the topic.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Own up to your mistake, take appropriate action, learn from it and move on.
  • Break down your efforts into bite-sized chunks. Take it one step at a time (e.g., start with drafting an accessibility statement or running an accessibility audit).

Planning this UX research conference about inclusion has been a journey for us with many learnings. We’d love to hear about your journey – do you have any tips on how to get started with a more inclusive UX research practice?

Karin den Bouwmeester (she/her)

Karin is the founder of UXinsight. With over 20 years of hands-on research experience, she’s determined to help the research community grow to a mature level. She loves to connect UX researchers from all over the world and facilitating user research training and workshops.

Anna Efimenko

Anna Efimenko (she/her)

With a decade of experience in the research field, Anna is passionate about designing experiences informed by data and driven by empathy. For a big part of her career, she supported multi-disciplinary teams at using qualitative and quantitative data to inform product design, strategy, KPIs and organisational structure. She is excited about mixed-methods research and collaborations with other insights disciplines (e.g., analytics, data science, customer service). Anna loves to contribute to UX research community through mentorship and knowledge exchange.

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