Inclusion Guideline: Product Development

Leverage inclusive product development to reach more potential users.


Building for inclusion is fundamentally about ensuring the maximum number of people possible can use your product.

Add in the fact that marginalized communities have huge buying power - for example Americans with disabilities alone have $175 billion dollars in discretionary spending and global LGBTQ+ buying power is estimated at over $1 trillion dollars - building inclusive products has a direct revenue connection.

This checklist contains a number of things to consider when building for inclusion.

  • Legal requirements on accessibility and user inclusion

  • Product infrastructural items

  • User experience and product marketing

  • Other resources for further education on inclusive product development

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Legal Requirements

Note: This section is intended to be a high level overview, not legal advice, and should not be constituted as such. Always consult relevant lawyers and legal authorities to figure out your organization’s legal requirements dependent on geography, industry, worker union status, or other relevant factors.

If you operate in Canada
There may be provincial legislation such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

There is also the proposed (as of Feb 2019) Accessible Canada Act (ACA) to pay attention to.

Multiple data privacy laws apply in Canada depending on your business, chief among them Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).


If you operate in the United States
You will be governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). American data privacy laws are typically more business-driven, not legal-driven, than in Europe or Canada.


If you operate in Europe
You will be governed by GDPR, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the European Accessibility Act (EAA).


Other countries
Many other countries use WCAG guidelines as requirements for websites if they don’t already have jurisdictional laws on digital accessibility.

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Product Infrastructure

□ Create all forms and data inputs with character limit flexibility. Many cultures have short last names (two or even one letter) and others have much longer last names. The same can be said for city names and other user information.

□ Build as many possible ways to control the product as possible: keyboard controls, gesture controls, eye control, voice control, touch controls, and mouse.

□ Build in alt-text requirements for any images or image sections in your platform. Marketers may forget to do this if it’s not easy to find.

□ Ensure digital products are responsive, including both images and text. The usual start here is mobile (smaller screen), but also be aware of bigger screens/zooming for people with different visual preferences or difficulties.

□ Create responsive text containers that auto size font when users have longer inputs.

□ Build sections to have labels or instructions, not placeholder text. Many placeholder text boxes are skipped by screen readers or are hard to pick up visually due to contrast.

□ Design with screen readers in mind, meaning clear focus indicators for tab navigation. People who use keyboard navigation need to clearly see which element of your page they are interacting with.

□ Build colour and pattern preferences for graphs and images. This will ensure colour blind people can easily get the visual cues from your product.

□Design product pages with high colour contrast to make them easier to see for people with vision difficulties.

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User Experience

□ Design product pages with high colour contrast to make them easier to see for people with vision difficulties.

□ Use alt text for every image. This is not only helpful for screen readers but also in case the page doesn’t load properly on slower connections.

□ Design all pages to have proper headings and markup for easy user navigation.

□ Use SVG images so zooming in doesn’t affect quality of the image.

□ Use subtitles and transcripts for all video content. Bonus here: subtitles and transcripts can be great for video SEO!

□ Test the page with contrast simulators to ensure the page works for people with vision difficulties.


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Product Marketing

□ Have a clear product how-to page or instructional booklet. Add translations to different languages as well depending on where you operate.

□ Use plain language in copy and be aware of cultural sensitivities to different words. Avoid colloquialisms unless you can explain them or use relevant ones in other geographies.

□ Pay attention to contextual translation for different languages. For example, you may end up advertising war when you meant to talk about passion, or prostitution when you meant to talk about “hustling”.

□ Remove gender-coded language for non-gendered products. And don’t unnecessarily gender products. Many tools exist for removing gender bias in job ads, and you can use them to input product copy.

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Other Ways to Gather Grassroots Feedback

□ Hire diversity consultants for hyper-specific use cases.

□ Ask for employee and community feedback with alpha and beta releases before a full launch.

□ Continually challenge assumptions by asking how a way of building or working makes it easier for the maximum amount of people to use your product.

□ Think about how similar products mess with users. Of course, never your products! But think of how your desired user currently solves their problem. What areas of that solution block the maximum number of users from accessing the product?

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Product inclusion as a Business Imperative

The types of users in our world are growing. As technology breaks through physical and political barriers, the opportunity has never been greater. But with great opportunity comes the responsibility to build for different audiences. Whether for accessibility, adding users from different cultures, or simply better products, inclusive product development tactics help you get there. See below for more resources to assist you!

Further Resources

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