Podcast 26: What are the design choices to consider when designing for inclusion?

Welcome to this week’s a question or gamification. My name is An Coppens. I’m the show host for this episode. And I’m also the chief game changer at gamification nation or also known as CEO. And this week we are continuing down the line of the inclusion by design series. And the question that we want to attack or answer is what are the implications of trying to be inclusive by design and the design choices I need to make. So this week I want to start with an example namely to be a sports watch. Now, It’s an example that I’ve blogged about a number of years ago and it’s also a product that I think showcases how inclusion is not always there from the outset and then allows for niche products to appear. And this is a very niche product but actually created out of a need that was real for the target audience.

So the BS sports watch was designed for by, designed for and by female triathletes. So those are the ladies that swim, cycle, and run a mega long distances for fun or for achievement. And many of them train very long distances to prepare for competition days. And one of the things that they found is that the sports watches on the market weren’t necessarily suited for a female wrists or for their sport because you know, it needs to be waterproof, it needs to be a long lasting battery. It also needs to still be visible so that you can see the various statistics that you may want to see in this situation. So what the ladies did first before designing the watch, they say, well, let’s explore if we’re the only ones with this problem. And they started asking their fellow colleagues, around and said, look, you know, what would you like in a sports watch that you would take as part of your training?

And what came out was people were looking for something slim and ergonomic something that was lightweight to wear. And both those things came up because the traditional watches that were made for women were just smaller versions of what was made for a man and that often then obscured the face and made all the letters smaller. For those of you that are users of smart watches or FitBits, trying to fiddle with lots of things that are tiny means that you often have to repeat some things several times. And if you’re like me trying to hit the right application that I want to launch from the Apple Watch is a bit of a trial and error situation. And again, when it’s so basically, they say, well, want something slim, ergonomic lightweight to wear, but also a one button to start something really user friendly design.

So the user experience needs to be one click we’re on, we’re off. And you know, easy to do while you’re running, while you’re swimming, when you’re cycling without losing your speed. And obviously because of their long distances and duration of training, that could actually be quite extensive and, for most of us, way beyond our reach. They also needed long battery life, but I mean battery life for those of us that use smart devices, we know how important it is. So when your battery drains without even having lasted the whole day. So, especially then when it’s a productivity and a training tool, you do want it to last the distance of wherever you’re going, swimming, cycling or running. They also wanted, and this was a feature that had never been included before, was an SOS button. So they could discreetly launch an SOS, to let’s say a family member or relative that could checkup where they were on their route or where their GPS location was in the case that they hit an unsavory situation and, you know, way back, I used to train for marathons and often on the long runs I used to do them in the mornings early on a Sunday or Saturday, typically speaking.

And sometimes you meet some strange characters, not you sort as I’ve been, I better keep running fast here because I’m not so sure which way this is gonna go or you know, worse. Again, you end up injured and you need somebody to help and come and collect you, which is also possible when you’re tired, you may miss step or you may fall or you may be hits or you know, by car or whatever. So there may be many reasons why you may need to launch an SOS, but you don’t necessarily want to scream and shout and hope somebody hears you. You do want to send it to the people that matter to you, that could actually take action on your behalf. So that was something that most of the products on the market at the time definitely didn’t do. And it was a very feminine kind of problem where safety as a value tends to play higher on the scaled.

And for a lot of guys, they also wanted active positive reinforcement at the end of a training I something that told you, hey, you’re best out of x number or hey, well done. You completed your training, keep up the hard work. You know, things like that. Not In childish, but something that made them feel good that actually you’ve been out there, you’ve been rocking it and you know you’re doing your best on, you know, that’s obviously where gamification can play in. Nice, neat little role. So I wanted to give that as an example because it’s a good starting point. A lot of the time when when we see product development trying to go and appeal to women, we get the pink version and it doesn’t have to be pink. I love pink by the way, but it doesn’t have to be paying.

There’s plenty of ladies that do not appreciate pink. So, you know, what we do wanted to do is to be functional first and foremost and to be purpose driven for the role that we’re performing at that time. In fact, if you want to delve deeper are there are several studies around the fact that actually females associate more with the role that they are performing and doing that role to the best of their ability and having tools to be the best in that given role. And therefore their gadgets that we use to support those roles need to fit in with the values we experience and the experience we want to create. And you know, that goes from the discrete SOS button to the positive reinforcement. But also, for example, not to be wanting to be seen as the damsel in distress or the princess that needs saving because not all of us do.

So it’s, it’s something that I thought was a, a good starting point. So, so few, if you look at that from a design perspective, what they basically had to do was inquire with the target audience. So what they first in for foremost did was they went and asked their, their colleagues, their friends or other people with the same problem. And then what they did is they adapted the product itself. So the actual visual look, and I dare you to look up the design because it is rather unusual but actually quite snazzy, quite cool. And you can see why plenty of women would find it an attractive tool. So the first thing, the first design choices, product design, product design and improvements in product design is testing it with your target audiences. And that means observing them. That is mean letting them play with it and see how they respond, what they find Novation whether they like it, dislike it, collect feedback but also observe where are they getting stock, what are they not using?

For example, I’m aware of an Apple Watch. I think I have the man’s model because I find it quite big and Chunky for my wrists. And I immediately from day one I think ordered custom colors for, for the band because I didn’t like the plastic look of the silver band that was on it. So I have nice and colorful designs in bands that I can now change whenever I feel like it. So product design wise, I also find it a very fiddly tool. So once that it does read a time and it gives me reminders on the weather and keeps track of my heart rate, et Cetera, you know, I find it useful, I always wanted it, but I also find that there is a lot of improvements that can be done to the actual design to make it more user friendly.

So when you’re talking about inclusion. So last week I spoke about I think it’s last week or the week before last I spoke about the framework of inclusion by design being culture, being abilities, being gender, being age. And if you’re thinking about product design across those four big pillars, then it to be most exclusive. You want to make sure that if your target audience spans across a cross section of all of them, then at what point are you excluding at what point is your cutoff point. So is it only for people between x agents, x, x, and y age? Is it only for women? Is it only for men? Is it maybe for both? Is it for certain markets but not for others? And I think, you know, the first thing when you are talking about different markets is ability to have language that’s in different, different characters even at times.

So product design is also about the financials, the cost of your product, the shape of your product. So think about this in virtual reality. More and more research is coming out about the design of the headsets. And a lot of people in the learning space or in the corporate space would find virtual reality, quite scary for two reasons. That it blocks a first thing is that it blocks out reality so that they can’t see what’s happening around it and therefore needs to be in a very safe environment where they don’t feel that somebody could potentially take advantage of them. So there’s that as a, as a consideration. And then secondly, something I read very recently was that 90% of the headsets are designed for VR actually don’t fit 100% on female heads because, I mean the official our heads, but the peoples of our eyes are not centred.

And therefore as a secondary we experience, we have a higher likelihood of experiencing motion sickness on that. Some people experience in VR. So you know, from a product design perspective, even the telephone, our smart phones, the current range of smartphones is actually on average about a centimeter to two centimeters too big for a female hand. And you know, again, these are design considerations now they are not made intentionally but do happen because somebody thought it was a good idea. And also because very often our product design teams are from one gender only. And if you’re aiming at both sides of the gender divide to use your product, then you want to test it with both and also see if it actually still works as intended because it may not. So if you, if we’re aiming for 100% inclusion product design and designing for people with different levels of ability is a major challenge.

So you might, you know, a headset for someone that’s blind, it may still not mean anything. So their experience has to come from touch, has to come from sound. So you use, you also then need narrative. You, you need audio and ideally something tactile that take a work with a to get the same kind of experience. So inclusion impacts definitely choices in product design. And you know, from the example I gave on one of the previous podcasts is a simple as a thing as paper money in a game. If it’s too small and too flimsy, it becomes harder for people with Metoric differences in abilities, not, you know, make it harder for them to, to play the game. And you may need to adapt the rules in order for them to feel part of things. So product design has something to do with that.

Some of us will have plenty of cash to tap into. Others may have to do it with more limited, I suppose, affluence and therefore, you know, that’s why you have the Google cardboard or the cardboard VR decks all the way to you know, your top notch HTC vive or Oculus or you know, whichever the latest and greatest is today. So there is inclusion choices to be hired in, in that. The other, the other elements that you would need to consider in inclusive design are the colours. A colour bright blindness is actually much more prevalent than we think. Green, red is not always visible by many people or by the majority of people. So it’s something that often in games needs to meet to be compensated by contrast needs to be able to, you know, a great asset test for, for your design is always, if I was going with just pure black and white lenses, what can I still see?

Am I still able to play with the gray skills or the black and white contrast? Because that will tell you if someone is colour blind Twitter, they can still be participating in play visuals. And if you’re using visuals and I characters you want to make them as inclusive as possible. So I would say all colours, all race, all age groups, even in animates characters are essential for, for some of the Games. And letting the person who enters the game choose and change as they go is amazing. I think one of the Games though that really speaks to me in terms of character design is Overwatch, you have so many options. You can choose different different outfits, different game styles, different type of, of tools that you, you we call go to combat with. So there’s, you know, and I actually think the designs of that game are amazingly beautiful to look at.

And you know, it’s just the appreciation of that, that that takes forever to put together. And I have to say, the artists are not are, are just out of this world in terms of skill with the visuals that you have. So I gave an example and one of the talks I did recently of a specific campaign that I’ve also blogged above, which you can look up, which was a recruitment campaign for Jaguar Land Rover, where they had used the application from gorillas and an intro by a, you know, dark skinned power lady who gave the instructions as you know, she, she invited you to come and prove yourself where you good enough to be an engineer in their offices and then, you know, invite into the game. And I was challenged afterwards to sort of say, well, actually, no, it was a very feminist thing to do.

To talk about that and you know, if then people in reality don’t see female managers and don’t see that person back in real life then this individual said it was actually very much tokenistic and feminist too to use. Now, you know, I get the feminist comment quite a bit and at this stage I think it’s more a reflection of the person than off of me. I am female. I have learned to live with her society around me that’s maybe not always built by females or four females. And that’s okay. I mean, that’s perfectly fine. But I also want to promote a female role models. And I actually, I really liked that particular recruitment game because I thought it touched on a lot of great stuff. It had really sussed out the target audience. It was a really difficult set of problems that you were solving through a very edgy application.

The fact that the instructions were given by a female of dark skin, actually I thought was a bonus and an amazing, rather than, you know, token female. But if indeed nobody sees a female on the floor of the workplace or even in the interview process, you know, you begged the question, was that done on purpose? We’ve worked in on a game also to specifically with the view of being more inclusive and we included females, we included coloured, we included white. Why? Because there was a variety and a mix of people in the workforce, not Su, you know, would represent that we did test and we went to test several times to see if the visuals would be off putting, inviting. We also tested the language on a, what we got back is that the language was too friendly for our game and that they wanted something harsher more, you know, more in your face, more feedback.

Like rather than Nice, nice, you keep doing and keep going. So, so that was good feedback. And for the target audience we then adapted a, the the language and we are going back to another round of testing to make sure that we also appeal to the different cultures that we wanted to appeal to. So too to see if that was not thing there that would put them off and you know, forced them not to play. So, so visuals, having role models in it is good, but also being mindful that some visuals actually are off putting in some scenarios or you know, have at least a health warning to, to kind of point out, look, you may experience this. And that’s if there is, let’s say guns in it and people don’t like guns. But it could be as simple as a food product that’s not used in a certain culture.

It could be that in some cultures certain dress codes are not okay. We’ve worked on learning related scenario where all of the characters had to wear the hijab and long white dresses and head covers for men as well. So, you know, these are cultural considerations that sometimes you, you need to take into consideration and say, ah, right, that’s my target audience. So therefore we need to change that. And it’s flexing your design muscles. So it’s, I think as a designer it’s actually exciting to work with different limitations language. Most European and you know, western languages read left to right. But some of the Middle Eastern ones and Chinese go the opposite way around. So where you positioned things on a screen will become totally different. How you design even where people click and what people click needs to flipped out completely from one side to the other.

So having enough space for the character is becomes a thing because, you know, just try translating from English to French or German sometimes and you’ll experience that exact problem that, you know, certain languages, the buttons just need to be bigger and that’s okay. But language is something to be mindful of. And languages, tone, languages, culture, languages, gender, some things a female would never say or a male would never say. So there’s, you know, a whole range of things to take into account. The only way, the only fail safe way to get it right is to iterate and to multiply the amount of things you do. And to start with, you know, sort of a checklist in side too. If you needed a checklist, I would say colours, visuals, language, product design, multi-modality and multi-modality. I would mean speech, text, video, images you know, glowing items, whichever the case may be, but appealing to as many of these sensors as possible.

Why? Because the more senses you engage, the more you can engage people across the spectrum of abilities. The more you can engage people across the spectrum of age as well. And probably culture and gender to a lesser extent. But abilities and age are major when it comes to multimodality and it’s also a lot about preferences. So some of us love listening to things, others might love reading things and you know, the game genre that you choose to design. And we’ll already, you know, exclude some by default and include some by default the rules that you use. Again, need to be simple enough for age groups to understand or different cultures to understand where maybe you are introducing some new gameplay, how that has never been done before. So you want to make it easy enough. The duration for which it is used also plays a role in your rules, your extent of your game of course, which is already there, which is not necessarily an inclusion limitation, but if you’re limited for time.

So for example, if we’re designing a game that needs to be played and debriefed within 45 minutes, we need to keep the rules as simple as possible. Therefore the game play, will it be adapted, therefore maybe visual becomes much more important, you know, so there is, there’s a whole range of not calling effects that happened. Game elements used also impact on inclusion. So we often have the debates competition versus collaboration, which appeals more to whom. And actually that’s not just a gender perspective. Competition appeals more to the younger age group, less so to an older age group appeals more to to men, but that’s gender or masculine behaviour and lesser to feminine behaviour. But that’s not also foolproof because women, when they feel they have a chance to win and are able and well-equipped enough to compete at the other level playing field will compete just as hard as a man will.

So it’s not as clean or clear cut as that. So that’s why it’s, it’s four pillars in some companies and countries. Competition is unheard of in others it’s encouraged. So it’s even culturally specific too, to an organisation or country. So the key for inclusion is always am I allowing all of the people, all of the players to win. And what am I doing in terms of colours, visuals, language, product design, multi-modality rules, and game elements that makes it as inclusive as possible. The only way to get it right is to test and iterate. And as soon as you have to make adaptations to make someone feel more included, that means you’re not a hundred percent inclusive by design. So therefore a new iteration is necessary. It’s not because you failed, it’s because you need to iterate and that’s fine. So gains improve. So in summary, keep trying, keep iterating.

And yes, across the four pillars of culture, age, gender and ability do aim for 100% check if your colours are inclusive. Check if your visuals are inclusive from characters to gender to abilities to, you know, culturally acceptable visuals. Check your language, the tone, the culture, the gender, you know, the typical things that are said in your target audience or not said from a product design perspective. Tested for sure on the segment that you’re aiming for the majority first. And then, you know, go wider as you can. Multimodal I think is the most have a, unless you’re a text-based adventure and you’re text-based adventure, right? In which case anyone that doesn’t read is by default excluded. With, you know, there’s a, you know, there’s maybe a pointed out the rules obviously make them as good as you can for the audience that you’re aiming for and the game elements.

Make sure not your, actually, I love to co-create so I always encourage it with with my clients. So where possible, co-create and help them to pick game elements that are useful for the games that you’re creating. So I hope that helps identify some of the choices that you will be making in terms of a design to give you an input on to what’s possible, what’s necessary. So thank you very much for listening to a question of gamification and do ask us your questions, especially around the topic of inclusive by design. We will keep going on this theme for a few more sessions and if you enjoy it, do give us a good rating and love to hear from you. Thank you for listening.


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