User-Centered Design: Applied Inclusion

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When developing new products based on the “average” person, the diverse needs of different groups of people are often ignored. Norms can (unintentionally) lead to disadvantages for certain groups and, in the case of safety devices or medical products, even endanger their health. Therefore, modern “user-centered” approaches consciously try to consider the diverse aspects of their (potential) applications in the development process.

Personas are fictional characters designed to help us empathize with “typical” users and understand their needs when developing new products and solutions. We often use personas in design thinking or marketing, but also in SCRUM processes. This involves a particular risk of projecting stereotypical ideas into personas and thus reproducing existing inequalities. A diversity-conscious approach to personas, on the other hand, can help to reflect the diversity of different user groups more adequately. In addition to diverse team composition and a self-critical approach, empirical methods (for instance, surveys) and objective criteria (like statistical data) can help with inclusive design.