Can design be both universal and personal?

As a product manager, one of my primary goal was to identify primary persona, identify primary persona needs, define features around this persona and iterate the product features around this primary persona. Secondary persona needs are always de-prioritized. In short, the use of a minimum of two personas in the design process is what connects the product to the end user. Design for the primary – accommodate the secondary. Design for the primary – accommodate the secondary.

Until I was introduced to the inclusive design, I had not realized that I was missing broader perspectives and excluding larger set of users to satisfy one primary user. Inclusive design emphasizes the contribution that understanding user diversity makes to informing design decisions, and thus to including as many people as possible. User diversity covers variation in capabilities, needs, and aspirations.

Inclusive design prescribes us to arrive at a persona spectrum. Persona spectrum helps us to empathize users in various contexts and helps solution scale to a broader set of audience. Traditional personas help simplify and humanize the design process. The Persona Spectrum helps re-introduce human diversity in a purposeful way. It helps us to understand related limitations across the spectrum of permanent, temporary and situational disabilities. Below is one example that depicts limitations of a user.


If you design your solutions for people with permanent disabilities, it results in actually benefiting a much larger number of people. Looking at disability differently can inspire better designs that benefit more people and can be a source of creativity.

This new thought process and mindset is helping me to look at world around me with a fresh perspective. I see numerous opportunities to create products and services accessible to larger set of users.

  • Infrastructure – Roads are poorly designed leading to many problems: accidents, clogging, tough for pedestrians to cross the road. Indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, medical facilities and workplaces needs to be re-looked at.
  • Transportation – Today’s public mode of transportation is completely in-accessible to a larger set of people with different disabilities.
  • Education – Very few institutions enroll students with disabilities. Education system needs major revamp to include broader set.
  • Entertainment – Products and services around entertainment have massive opportunities if we start including this perspective.

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This is a very big mind shift change for me and surely most of you as well, but I guess it is worth attempting and thinking about inclusive design.

It is very heartening to see that India government recently launched Accessible India campaign. If companies start applying inclusive design actively, they can create better products and services accessible to larger set of audience locally and globally.


This article was originally published here.

January 10, 2020

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