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How to ensure our research is inclusive

How can we ensure that our research is inclusive of those we are designing for? Read this article to learn more.

Research is essential to any project and is an early part of the design process but how do we make sure our research is inclusive?

How we gather research

It’s pretty standard practice to gather research through observation; filling in the gaps in our knowledge, identifying the problems we’d like to solve and understanding the needs of stakeholders.

However, this way of working can lead to research being ‘extractive’, serving the goals of the researcher rather than seeking to truly understand and respond to the needs and problems faced by stakeholders.

Extractive research

For example, let’s say you and your team have decided to develop an app that connects people to their local sexual health clinic. You conduct interviews with a variety of women, including trans women, to understand which clinics they have used in their areas.

You find out that many trans women do not think these clinics meet their needs. However, you overlook these findings and build the app drawing only on the parts of the research that back your plans.

You launch the app and are lauded for inclusion, whereas the trans women that shared their concerns with you feel unsatisfied and sidelined.

Research can include different methods at different stages of the process, such as interviews or surveys early on, usability testing once a prototype is developed, and analytics once people are using a product.

Beginning inclusive research

When identifying the varying needs of stakeholders, it’s important to recognise that different societal factors create varying power imbalances and inequalities which affect things like people’s access to and engagement with technologies.

It is especially important to identify social groups that might have distinct vulnerabilities regarding the particular technology you are developing.

Here are some things you can do to make your research more inclusive:

  • Consider who you are designing for, what are their needs?
  • If you are designing for large groups of people, what are the needs of your most vulnerable stakeholders?
  • Identify any relevant gaps in your knowledge through initial research.
  • Think about who you want to be designing with, how can you make considerations for all of your stakeholders?
  • Be respectful and appreciative of anyone you approach and who chooses to be part of the process.

If you’d like to learn more about gender-inclusive approaches to technology, check out the full online course, from the UAL Creative Computing Institute, below.

© Creative Computing Institute
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Gender-Inclusive Approaches in Technology

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