The importance of inclusive content design
We are very excited to share a guest post from Jacquelyn Iyamah. Jacquelyn is an Inclusive Content Designer as well as a storyteller and educator.
My name is Jacquelyn Iyamah, I am a Design Equity Strategist. I have degrees in both Social Welfare and Information Architecture. My Social Welfare degree taught me how to recognize, unlearn and challenge oppressive norms. My design degree taught me how to dream up creative, useful, and engaging solutions to meet people’s needs. I love combining these two schools of thought to disrupt the ways in which we design. I currently work on inclusive content design at Uber.
Our job as content designers is to ensure that the information communicated in a product, service, or experience meets users’ needs in the best way possible. But without incorporating an equity lens into this work, it is easy for us to design content that caters to white, cisgender, male, wealthy, and non-disabled people; whilst harming Black, Indigenous, and people of color, people from the LGBTQIA+ community, women, people with low economic status, and people with disabilities.
I continuously reflect on how as content designers, we need to be thinking more about the Social Identity Wheel and Intersectionality.
The Social Identity Wheel prompts people to consider how identity markers can impact the ways in which someone may experience privilege or oppression in the world. For example, a Black person can experience oppression in the form of anti-Black racism, and a man can experience privilege in the form of patriarchy. Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw which explores Social Identity in a more nuanced manner. Intersectionality describes how these same identity markers can “intersect” to magnify or alleviate how someone experiences oppression. For example, a Black woman does not only experience racism, but she also experiences sexism.
Both of these frameworks teach us that because we all have different lived experiences, we often need different things to thrive.
When we incorporate this lens into our content design work, it encourages us to think about how factors such as gender, race, socioeconomic status, ability, sexuality, culture, and more; can impact what a person needs in order for a message to be useful for them. Inclusive content design is about creating content for needs that may not be the same as our own. It is the practice of ensuring that the information we communicate creates a sense of belonging, a sense of safety, and a sense of empowerment for communities.
Here are some inclusive content design tips to remember when creating content for different communities:
Gender and sexuality:
- avoid gendered language such as “he/she/his/hers” and use gender-neutral language such as “they/them/theirs”,
- when collecting data on gender, provide inclusive options beyond “Male/Female”, such as “Transgender/Agender/Genderqueer/Prefer to self-describe/Prefer not to say”.
Race and ethnicity:
- avoid using broad terms such as “people of color” if you mean “Black people”. It is important to be specific about who we are writing about as not all communities of color share the same lived experience,
- when collecting data on race and ethnicity, provide inclusive categories that do not homogenize groups. For example, instead of “Asian”, consider adding “East Asian” and “South Asian” as these groups have different lived experiences,
- use content warnings when writing about racist incidents. This can help ensure that Black, Indigenous, and communities of color are not re-triggered or re-traumatized.
- avoid using dehumanizing terms such as “The homeless” or “The poor”. Instead, use people-first language such as “People experiencing homelessness” or “People experiencing poverty”,
- write for a 6th-grade reading level to make content accessible for people who have not had access to higher education levels.
- avoid language that perpetuates negative stereotypes about mental illness. Instead of “Crazy”, “OCD”, or “Bipolar” use “Unbelievable”, “Organized”, or “Unpredictable”,
- when using hyperlinks in copy, avoid using terms like “Click here” or “Learn more”. Instead, use descriptive links for people who are unable to see what is on the screen.
- avoid using terms that are culturally appropriative such as “Guru” or “Ninja”. Instead, use terms like “Expert”,
- use subtitles or captions when creating videos. In addition to being accessible for people with disabilities, these are helpful for people who need written text to help them better understand the language being spoken in a video.
These are a few examples of what bringing an equity lens into our content design work can look like. If you would like to learn more about best practices for inclusive content, look into:
If you’re interested in using software that checks if your content is inclusive, look into:
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