How to design more inclusive products, according to Google’s Annie Jean-Baptiste
As designers, most of us understand the ethical importance of making our products accessible and inclusive for all the people who use them. Yet, we don’t always understand the best way to go about doing this, or how to convey a business case to make it a priority.
But Annie Jean-Baptiste sets out a clear method in her new book Building for Everyone. Annie’s the head of product inclusion at Google, where she makes sure the company’s teams are building products for everyone. She stopped by the latest episode of the Design Better Podcast to dive into the “ABC’s of diversity” for building inclusive products.
Annie shared with us that Google considers a dozen dimensions of diversity as they design products. It’s really important for design leaders to holistically think about how race, gender, socioeconomic status, age, sexual orientation, ability and more intersect for users, Annie says. These multiple facets not only make them who they are, but also affect how they interact with products.
“I always say to teams: ‘I’m a Black woman and I’m left-handed, but I’m not Black on Monday, left-handed on Tuesday, and a woman on Wednesday.”
Her advice: Regularly get diverse perspectives and continually test, address, and improve on the distinct needs of historically underrepresented users.
She gave an example of how a few years ago at Google, the team that was testing camera proximity sensors was all white. Recognizing this, the team made sure to bring in a multitude of people with different skin tones to make sure the Pixel camera works for all users.
“When you take a picture—which is supposed to be a memory of the people, places, and things you care about the most—you want to make sure that everyone is beautifully and accurately represented,” Annie says.