Infusing equity-centered strategies within your digital product takes first introspection to build equity-centered practices within your teams, and then honest acknowledgement of how your products are impacting marginalized communities.
As you seek to create more equitable products and services, start the conversation internally within your team and company. You don’t need to have a role dedicated to equity design to start a discussion or to advocate for equity design practices. Start by defining what equity means to you, then expand this definition with your team to discuss what an equitable team and an equitable product should be. Ideally leadership should create a safe space for these discussions to exist, but this can also start at the team or individual level.
Analyze your team and company culture to understand if there is sufficient psychological safety within your organization for the voices of individuals from marginalized communities to be heard and adhered to. Additionally, is there a healthy environment of challenging the status quo and risk-taking? Next, audit your processes, particularly the discussions being held in the initial phases of a project, to explore equity and accessibility. How robust are these discussions? Lastly, look outward to confront any negative impact, i.e., harm, that your industry or products might be causing in the world. Listen to user/customer feedback to learn of any adverse effects, whether directly or indirectly, your products might be causing.
As it pertains to user/customer research, create a safe and trusting environment when engaging participants, especially those from marginalized communities. Remember that soliciting feedback can oftentimes feel like a one-way street, so consider “yielding power” to your research participants by allowing their voice, rather than yours, to be heard as the driver of insights and product innovation.
Analyze your target audience to uncover where there might be gaps between a user's current life and a future where they’re utilizing your product or service. For example, the target audience for a given product or service might require educational resources before they’re able to fully utilize your product or service. Consider any harm that might result from placing assumptions or expectations on your user’s/customer’s ability to utilize your product or service. Meet your users where they are, rather than trying to get them to meet you.
For teams that lack in-house experience with the issues or circumstances of the communities they want to service, look outward to partner with the many agencies, organizations, community leaders or non-profits that are already doing groundwork in these communities. Hire these organizations as consultants to help deepen your perspective. As your team grows, these consultants can also act as partners in shaping job roles, tools and systems to make equity design and accessibility a core tenant of your design practice.
When beginning new projects, avoid the mistake of assuming you already know the target audience. Instead, build in a practice of continuous listening, learning and engagement to ground yourself in user/customer feedback as a foundation for driving product innovation. When looking internally at your team and company, amplify the voices of representatives from marginalized communities. While they don’t always have to be the face, their voices should be duly credited for bringing diverse perspectives and initiatives to the table.
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