The race to digitization in the public sector has been marked by an increased focus on user experience (UX). As governments expedite their own digital transformation strategies, finding better ways to present their services, resources and information to citizens has become an important priority.
However, like any product development process, creating a digital platform or online service that is not only accessible but also speaks to a broad spectrum of users can be challenging. This is especially the case when considering marginalized populations with language barriers, physical disabilities, or other limitations that can prevent them from accessing the same services as other citizens.
To make government digital experiences more inclusive and equitable, UX professionals must move beyond simply designing a visually appealing platform and get to the root of what accessibility and fairness mean in the public sector.
Recognizing the Needs of Underrepresented Groups
Marginalization isn’t always a conscious or intentional act. It can result from systemic problems that have been below the surface for many years. But regardless of the “lack of awareness” associated with many organizations, including governments, it’s important to recognize the needs of underrepresented groups and ensure they have access to the same resources as anyone else.
Some of these marginalized groups can include:
- Racial and ethnic minority groups
- People with disabilities
- People living in poverty
- Military veterans
- Elderly individuals
While all of these user groups may have different needs, UX professionals should consider the specific criteria to be met when creating digital services and products. This includes not just developing a platform that is visually appealing but also one that recognizes and responds to the sensitivities of the target audience.
Creating Accessible Digital Spaces for Everyone
UX designers play a crucial role in making digital spaces accessible to everyone. To adequately address the needs of “all” users, designers should conduct a thorough UX audit to consider various factors, such as language, font size, contrast ratios and color palettes that accommodate users with different levels of vision.
To create accessible digital spaces, designers can follow the guidelines set by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) or take into account several best practices, such as:
- Use semantic HTML to help users understand the content on the webpage.
- Use clear and concise language and avoid using jargon.
- Use alternative text for all images to improve accessibility for assistive technology users.
- Use appropriate colors and fonts with enough contrast for users with visual impairments.
- Make sure that content can be navigated with the keyboard alone.
- Provide transcripts, closed captions, or audio descriptions for multimedia content.
- Test for accessibility and use automated tools to identify issues.
- Staying Culturally and Linguistically Sensitive
An inclusive government requires user interfaces that accommodate everyone, regardless of cultural or linguistic background. To achieve this, designers must respect cultural nuances and language differences. For instance, one color may have a diverse meaning across cultures, and certain languages may require more characters to communicate adequately.
Moreover, inclusivity means respecting diverse lifestyles. When designing user interfaces for sensitive topics, it’s crucial to avoid making assumptions and generalizations. One way to guarantee that everyone feels represented, regardless of their gender identity, is to use gender-neutral language.
When presenting information, it’s crucial to understand how people process it. To achieve this, arrange data persuasively and systematically, facilitating user comprehension and navigation. Non-native speakers, people with cognitive impairments, and those with low literacy levels are uniquely susceptible to difficulties, but building an accessible interface can mitigate these concerns.
Embracing the Human Side of Design
To ensure inclusivity and accessibility in government services, a prioritization of human-centered design is crucial. By integrating empathy and understanding in the design process, governments can create solutions that are both effective and equitable for all citizens.
One meaningful way to embrace the human side of design is to involve users in the process. This means researching to understand the needs and behaviors of the people who will be using the product or service. By involving users in this way, governments can create solutions that truly meet their needs.
Human-centered design requires prioritizing accessibility, which goes beyond legal requirements and considers the needs of all users, including those with disabilities. Designing for accessibility not only makes government services more inclusive but can also enhance the user experience for all users.
Prioritize Community Involvement and Awareness
Governments cannot create accessible, equitable, and fair policies for all communities without factoring in the unique needs and experiences of those communities. This is why it’s essential to prioritize community involvement and awareness in the design process.
To prioritize community involvement, governments must first engage with the communities themselves. This can be done through community needs assessments, surveys, and focus group discussions.
Additionally, it’s important to include individuals from marginalized backgrounds, like people with disabilities, religious minorities, and low-income individuals who may face systemic barriers to accessing government services. UX consulting services can help to address these needs throughout each element of the design process
Partnering with local organizations like non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), and civil society organizations (CSOs) can help governments mobilize communities towards a shared goal.
These organizations have a better understanding of the communities they represent and can provide valuable insights into their needs and concerns. By collaborating with these organizations, governments can create policies and services tailored to meet the specific needs of their target communities.
Working Towards More Inclusive Government Resources
It’s vital for all governments to prioritize empathy and understanding when designing user interfaces. This includes coordinating with design ops teams and involving users in the design process, leveraging gender-neutral language, organizing information logically for easy navigation, and considering accessibility for all individuals with disabilities or low literacy levels.
It’s also essential to involve communities by engaging directly with them through surveys or focus groups as well as partnering with local organizations that understand their needs better than anyone else.
By embracing these human-centered principles of design, governments can create inclusive policies that serve everyone equally regardless of race, religion, economic status or disability.