As children, many of us were once told that “words will never hurt you.” Yet, as we grow older and (hopefully) wiser, we understand that words can and do hurt us.
Therefore, as a content agency that has provided a wealth of content to numerous clients across the UK and beyond, we at CopyHouse are aware that the way we write is incredibly important. The truth is that the importance of accessibility and inclusion extends far beyond the written word.
In reality, incorporating inclusivity, accessibility, and usability begins at the planning stage. These three key pillars each play a pivotal role in all facets of marketing material — from the written copy to user experience (UX) and even the overall content design of your website.
To help explain the importance of inclusivity and accessibility, we’ve sat down with our resident Content Designer Patrick Tu to hear his thoughts on how to go about creating visually appealing content that is accessible to everyone.
What is inclusive content design?
Before discussing “inclusive” content design, it’s a good idea to look at content creation as a whole. “Content” can be anything, whether written, visual or audio, and can refer to something as short as a social media post all the way up to a 100+ page whitepaper.
From a content & UX designer's perspective, content creation is a problem-solving exercise; something created through painstaking research and audits on existing content. Content creation (and, by extension, content design) involves identifying your target audience and their physical and emotional needs. The process, often referred to as a Buyer Persona, consists in discovering their pain points and how your work as a creative can improve or make a difference to their daily lives or consumption patterns.
New content creation, therefore, serves the purpose of addressing problems with existing copy and helping to achieve new goals. Depending on the client's needs, this can either take the form of a full website redesign or mean simply updating particular pages to improve performance and user experience to generate sales or website traffic. By its very nature, the entire content creation process is an inclusive procedure involving speaking to all relevant parties to address and solve their problems.
When we talk about “inclusive content design”, what we really mean is the creation of content that has been created with accessibility, equality, and usability in mind. Whether you’re aiming to create content for people from different industries, foreign languages, those with disabilities, or even attempting to target a particular ethnic or religious background, the focus is always on how can your intended audience absorb the information and content seamlessly.
What are your favourite examples of great, inclusive content and design?
Being inclusive doesn’t mean catering to a specific minority or demographic. Instead, it refers to creating content or products that appeal to everyone, regardless of their background.
One of the best examples I have seen of this at scale is the recent Nike Go FlyEase shoes. Nike designed these shoes as the company’s first hands-free shoe. While the sneaker doesn’t explicitly target those with motor or physical disabilities, it certainly benefits those who struggle with or cannot wear conventional footwear. But rather than limit its audience, Nike chose to market the shoe as a genuinely inclusive product that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their physical or mental capabilities.
From a website and UX perspective, Salesforce is another standout that comes to mind. As a cloud-based software company that creates CRM-based tools and solutions for companies, Salesforce is naturally used by businesses of all shapes and sizes. Salesforce’s website, therefore, reflects the wide-reaching appeal of its offering, providing jargon-free, approachable language, combined with charming graphics and in-your-face statistics that catch your attention.
Salesforce’s website doesn’t alienate any industry or person(s) and, instead, offers its services as the ideal solution for your company - regardless of your business's area of expertise.
How can you design content to be inclusive?
As with all content design, the first stage to creating inclusive and accessible content is identifying your audience and asking why. Why this? Why now? – These questions are imperative to understand the journeys and difficulties your audience will face in order to implement an effective, relevant, and inclusive strategy throughout your work.
Inclusive content design can come in many forms, be it through meaningful words, visual appeal such as typography and use of colours or responsive (website) design.
When designing a website for our clients, one of the first things I consider is the testing time. At CopyHouse, we advise clients that in order to adhere to the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, the site must ultimately be user-tested over a period of time to ensure that it serves the needs of a wide range of users.
In addition, I also place great emphasis on different breakpoints and how the site will look across a mobile, tablet or desktop device. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a good or bad design as this is purely subjective, and what might be considered “great” in the eyes of one could be underwhelming in the eyes of another.
Instead, when designing for inclusivity, it's essential to put aside the aesthetic perspective of being flashy with eye-catching graphics or popups and focus more on the functionality of the site and the user journey.
The secret to designing for inclusivity is understanding that inclusivity and accessibility are processes, not checklists.