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What is Inclusive Design? Main Principles and Patterns

What is Inclusive Design? Main Principles and Patterns

Design Process
8 min read

Designers and stakeholders should consider end users' diversity when building digital products. Age, gender, culture, language, and other specifics create endless backgrounds defining how users perceive digital products. For example, seniors would appreciate bright and contrasting interface colors. In contrast, people with autism tend to enjoy a calming, pastel color palette. 

So how do we create digital experiences and products that feel simple and seamless for various audience groups? That’s where inclusive design comes into play.

We at Arounda have adopted an inclusive mindset in our designs. Through over 130 projects, we researched and discussed which user group would benefit from potential design alterations and carefully tested our solutions. 

This article will explain why digital products should strive for inclusiveness and come in touch with people of all backgrounds and abilities. We will also discuss the most critical patterns and benefits of inclusive design.

Accessibility, Universal Design, and Inclusive Design: What is the Difference?

All three design methodologies aim to create products well-adjusted to human needs. But they cover this task differently. 

Accessibility in web design means that the internet content should meet the needs of people with cognitive, visual, physical, or auditory disabilities. For example, seniors with bad eyesight or cataract experience severe difficulties using the web and feel excluded. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) explain how to make digital content friendlier to people with disabilities. 

The universal design approach pragmatically accepts that a digital product can’t meet the whole human population’s needs. Still, designers of mainstream products strive to create web solutions accessible to as many users as the technology and budget allow for.

Conversely, the inclusive design suggests not making one-size-fits-all products but developing a family of products and derivatives for the best possible coverage of human needs. Another principle of inclusion is ensuring each product has an appropriate target market. For instance, let’s return to the problem of older people who have difficulty reading web content. An example of an inclusive design solution here is a button to increase the font size.

Finally, let’s look at the inclusive design definition. According to The British Standards Institute, “The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible... without the need for special adaptation or specialized design.”

Inclusive Design Examples and Patterns

Now that we have clarified the difference between accessibility, universal design, and inclusive design, let's see how leading companies implement inclusiveness into practice. Here are the best inclusive design examples. 

Acknowledging demographic characteristics

Demographic identifiers like race, gender, sexual orientation, and age are human diversity cornerstones. Therefore, design decisions acknowledging these human specifics support equality for people regardless of their identities.

In 2022, Uber recognized a danger for women and non-binary passengers in the evening hours. The company launched the Women Rider Preference feature, allowing for trip requests only from women riders when they’re available in the Uber app. This example shows how an inclusive approach increases people’s safety. It gives peace of mind to those in a higher-risk group because of their gender. 

Individualized Facets

Empathy lies at the core of inclusive design. The better you feel the audience, the more precisely you adapt interfaces to address various user needs. In particular, designers should consider users’ culture, education, interests, and even haircuts. 

Pinterest is one of the biggest platforms, with millions of users searching for beauty guidance and inspiration. Their focus on self-care gave birth to a specific and adorable feature of Skin tone ranges. This feature allows filtering search results according to the selected skin tone. So women with a particular skin tone will see similar-looking models and associate themselves with their image. It’s one of the most aesthetic examples of inclusive design. 

Meeple Diversity 

Today, brands often use illustrated characters called meeples to tell their stories and demonstrate people in different roles. At first, the characters were plain. You could recognize the gender only by hairstyle, and skin tones were mainly white. At some point, companies realized that these typical illustrations didn’t allow people of other races to identify themselves with the brand.

Shopify designer Meg Robichaud suggested that the best way to build a connection with a brand or product is to illustrate diverse and realistic characters. Duolingo meeples are a great example of such a pattern. Their characters are men and women of different races and looks - tall and short, young and older, and so on. Another example is the Get Emojis resource, where you can select among three meeple types. 

Patterns for older users

Vision and cognition problems may impact senior users' perception of digital products. For example, imagine an older person leaning against the computer screen and struggling to read a small text below a heading.  Moreover, they may find it hard to focus on a particular task for a long time. And it's even more difficult with a smartphone, where thumbnail icons play tricks with their fingers. 

There are several ways to ensure legibility and create an understandable website for the older population. Designers should use serif-free font types, larger font sizes, and high contrast between letters and the background. In addition, some eyesight problems caused by cloudy ocular media result in difficulties while processing interfaces in light mode. In these cases, dark mode UI could ease up the eye strain. A more advanced approach is to use a voice cover for the written text. 

Unfortunately, modern technologies are not yet adapted to seniors’ needs. But since this audience group is constantly growing, why don’t we start caring for our future selves? 

What Do You Implement First, Accessibility or Inclusive Design?

People sometimes use accessibility and inclusive design as interchangeable terms. Nevertheless, they are not the same. 

Accessibility focuses on how to make things, including digital products, perceivable, operable, and understandable for people with disabilities. For example, the disability community helped design Microsoft adaptive accessories in 2022. The company strived to adapt its products for people with difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard.

In contrast, accessibility standards describe only the bare minimum to create products for specific user needs. Inclusive design principles have a more comprehensive implementation. They explain how to create an immersive and meaningful experience for the whole spectrum of end-users. 

For example, designer Alison Wright from the UK developed an idea to create inclusive homes that meet clients’ physical and aspirational needs. Her “Easy Living Home” is an excellent example of practical inclusiveness mentioned in the “National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society”.


The first step to inclusive design is to realize that your product isn’t suitable for everyone. What works for the majority might be inconvenient or even offensive to some. Research and question how your users actually feel. Also, avoid designing for an ideally optimized target customer who doesn’t really exist. 

While creating UI/UX solutions, developing web and mobile apps, and building SaaS products for startups and SMEs, the Arounda team weighs every design decision. We know that it can either attract certain user groups to the brand or push them away. Inclusive design methodology helps extend a digital product’s reach to diverse target markets. And that’s what we at Arounda aim to achieve. 

If you’re looking for a design team with an individual approach to every product, just drop us a line


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8 min read
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FAQ on UI/UX design services

Why is inclusive design important?

Designers creating products without inclusiveness in mind tend to exclude specific user groups and narrow the target market.

What is inclusive design?

Inclusive design is an approach striving to provide equivalent experiences to all users. It acknowledges their age, race, gender, culture, and other individual characteristics.

What are the principles of inclusive design?

The inclusive design suggests developing a family of products with extended features to cover the appropriate target users’ needs. Its main principle is to adjust products to various requirements of people, from “able-bodied” and “disabled” audience segments.

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