Illustration of a brain inside a head

19 Feb 2019

Inclusive design learnings

At Snook we recognise that there is no normal.

There are 7.6 billion people on the planet and many of them face barriers to life and therefore services that we in our studio don’t. We believe it is our responsibility as designers to create services that are accessible to as many people as possible and it’s our privilege to adapt existing services to make them more inclusive.

This challenge requires us to practice inclusivity at every stage of the design process. We’re excited to be a part of a larger conversation in this important area.

Discovering inclusive design

Last year the team ran co-design sessions at both the International Design in Government Conference and the Service design fringe festival. As a community of designers from 15 countries speaking 10 languages, we shared our top tips, struggles and learnings when conducting inclusive user-research and design.

Below is our work in progress. We’ve created a list of top tips that we are considering in our projects. If you spot anything that we’ve missed, we’d love to hear from you, send an e-mail to with the subject ‘inclusive design’. 

Include experts on the project team

We conducted research to explore what role technology could play in supporting domestic violence and abuse survivors. We worked closely with Chayn who are specialist charity supporting survivors.

“It was good to have Chayn on the project team as some of their volunteers (they are a volunteer-led organisation) are survivors of domestic abuse themselves. They offered expert advice on our approach and a discussion guide, which meant we were much better prepared.” Valerie Carr, Project Director

Plan extra time to find hard to reach participants

We conducted research to inform the future of Camden Council’s leisure centre services. We allowed extra time to recruit groups who have less engagement in existing council services, knowing that this can be much more challenging outside easy to reach networks.

“We allocated dedicated time to carefully consider and reach out to under-represented groups in the right way to make sure their views were heard.”  Liam Hinshelwood, Senior Service designer

Allow for life-causing delays

We conducted research for Macmillan, that focused on end-of-life care. We developed an understanding of the experiences and needs of people living with cancer, their carers, families and the professionals who support them. However, when trying to arrange home visits it became clear that we couldn’t guarantee people would feel well enough to participate in our interviews on the day.

“The patients health and wellbeing had to come first and we allowed for a completely flexible research schedule to allow for changes up to, and on the day.” Eve Georgieva, Service designer

Read more about how we care for research participants.

Budget for participant expenses

We budget up-front for expenses we are likely to need. This includes incentives such as vouchers to thank people for their involvement. When it is needed, we also book trains or taxis for people who don’t have the cash to pay up-front and provide food for our interviews and workshops. On occasion we have even provided food for participants to take away, to make sure their kids were fed that day.

“We learnt that if you reimburse people for bus money — you need to check that they have enough to advance the cash, and they need to be reimbursed in cash on the day. ” Valerie Carr, Project Director

Provide consent forms and GDPR information

For many BSL speakers, english is a second language and their reading age may be significantly lower. By preparing a BSL consent form, it allowed for participants to provide properly informed consent. Even though it is called ‘British Sign Language’ it isn’t based at all on English as we know it. It’s a visual, physical and emotional language that is incredibly intricate and unique.  

“During our BSL engagement research project we needed to get informed consent for our interviews. To do this we did our best to make a concise consent form, we then had this translated into a BSL video by the fantastic organisation Deaf Action ( Nothing is ever perfect first time round, and our 400 word consent form translated into a 6 minute BSL video. As one of our BSL participants told is “It doesn’t matter if you’re Deaf or not, nobody wants to sit through a 6 minute consent video”. We tried our best but there’s always room for improvement. It will be a shorter video the next time — we promise!.” Pete Swanton, Service Designer

Allow for flexibility on the day of research

Whilst conducting research for Samaritans we were talking to people experiencing suicidal thoughts. We allowed for flexibility when we designed the research session to accommodate the emotional needs of the participant.

“One of our participants has social anxiety and wasn’t comfortable talking aloud. We agreed to conduct an interview over text message which we had extra time scheduled for and worked much better for him.” Essi Mikkola, User researcher

Put on your oxygen mask before helping others

As researchers, we have the immense privilege of getting to know people and listening to their stories. We plan their participation carefully and make sure that they are supported before, during and after the conversations, but our team’s well-being is equally important.

During particularly stressful or traumatic projects such as Samaritans, we also factor in extra time for the team to breathe and digest information. We recognise that we need to be able to look after ourselves first before we can support others.

“We factor in 10 minute ‘debriefing’ time to reflect, take stock, talk, write or relax. We are grateful for the people we have met and the stories they have shared but we need to leave these stories with them and not take them home with us or they can become a burden on our own mental well-being.” Eve Georgieva, Service designer

Read more about our techniques for self-care

Prototype for the right degree of fidelity

Whilst conducting research for Samaritans we spoke with autistic users, and users with social anxiety. We created a clean and simple prototype to use as a prop to aid difficult conversations.

“Using Invision meant we had a life-like and clickable “App”. We kept the digital wireframes striped back, simple and grey scale so participants could click through an experience without the distraction of visuals or branding.” Mat Trivett, Senior strategist

If you are interested in our inclusive design journey map, then download our extended learnings here.

Interested in finding out more?

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