Learn how to avoid design bias for digital products

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INclusive Design

Learn how to avoid design bias for digital products

Aug 20, 2021

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The awesome online conference Webinale recently invited our CEO Guillaume Vaslin to talk about the importance of inclusive design in tech. This blog provides an overview of Guillaume’s presentation that takes us all the way from 20th century architecture, to digital design of today and AI of the future. Plus, as a leading design agency in Berlin, we offer practical, actionable solutions used by ENNO studio to help businesses open up their digital spaces to wider and more diverse audiences. 

After reading this blog and watching Guillaume’s presentation, we hope to show you that inclusive design isn’t a utopian idea, it’s just good business.

What we can learn from Le Corbusier’s Modulor

Meet Le Corbusier, one of the most renowned and influential architects of all time. Throughout the 20th century, the French-Swiss designer created buildings with a desire to rethink urban spaces with the user in heart and in mind.

Le Corbusier’s legacy lives on through his famous listed buildings and his idea of Modulor – a design system he conjured up to make architecture more universal and to work for everyone. His intention was to create a standard design scale that focused on humans and how they interacted with the space around them, taking architecture beyond a pursuit for the practical, the aesthetically pleasing or as a demonstration of power. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Cité Radieuse by le Corbusier in Marseille
The Unité d’habitation by Le Corbusier

Well, it certainly sounded good to all the people who commissioned Le Corbusier, and the architects who his buildings inspired throughout the 20th century. But when Le Corbusier decided on his standardised human measurements (based on an able-bodied British policeman 183cm tall), he unwittingly excluded vast swathes of the world’s population from interacting with his architectural spaces as he wanted. Unless you were 183cm tall, that is.

Le Corbusier’s Modulor system was not only fashionable, it became the gold standard in architecture. But the more Modulor was applied and replicated, the more buildings people were being excluded from. By having elements like the height of door handles, worktops, and steps designed for an ‘ideal’ man, Le Corbusier’s own biases entrenched existing inequalities in society, be that gender, disability, age or health.

How Modulor is relevant to the digital world today

The tech world likes to think of itself as a progressive force, finding new and exciting ways to make life better and easier for everyone. However, in the video Guillaume discusses three striking examples of an online user experience where exclusion occurs today. With just a few examples, it’s clear that many digital experiences today are far from being inclusive.

And this is where Modulor comes in.

If we take the example of Le Corbusier’s biases in the Modulor system and in the physical world, we can see history repeating itself in the digital world of today. With the homogeneous group of tech moguls serving as the architects of our digital future.

Why businesses should make their UX & UI design fairer

No matter how hard they try, businesses during the product design phase tend to develop products for themselves. And despite their best intentions, unconscious bias can still creep through. When creating new digital products, it’s easy to overlook the small details that make all the difference to someone else.

Take this and combine it with society’s existing inequalities (which Le Corbusier, in part, helped reinforce); designers risk feeding their own biases into the digital landscape through the products they create.

People that don’t correlate with the business’ thinking are sometimes labelled as ‘edge cases’. But if we look closely enough, we learn that everyone is an edge case with their own needs. And as users and customers, we should rightly expect these requirements to be met by brands looking for our business.

It’s also true that our needs change over time. For example, as the online generations grow older, their digital products will need to adapt, too. So businesses need to listen more intently so they can best serve their customers better.

Inclusive design means better digital products for everyone

When a company strives to design digital products more inclusively, not only will users benefit, but their business will too. For example, if digital products can be accessed by more users, those products will appeal to a higher percentage of the market.

Opening up new customer segments can lead to innovations, helping improve your product and grow your brand’s reputation as a whole. And by consciously considering the needs of all users, designers learn insights that can be applied across the board, increasing usability and joy of use.

By opting to follow a more inclusive strategy, this should result in more people being able to use your services at any time – and without the need for customer care assistants. This, in turn, will improve the user experience for all users and reduce the risk of damning reviews of your services from people who have been excluded from using them.

How to design inclusive digital products?

1. Involve all users

Every UX & UI design decision you make has the opportunity to include or exclude a potential user. So, when creating new digital products for clients, here at ENNO studio, we always follow the design thinking ethos.

1 | Empathize

All digital products start with real-life humans. When ENNO conducts customer research,  we want to step into the user’s world to understand their needs. The only way to do this is by speaking directly to them.

two woman intensively talking to each other

2 | Define 

Once you’ve got to know your users, you’ll have a true-to-life data set that can help you outline and focus on specific goals.

two colleagues working on an analogue prototype

3 | Ideate 

At ENNO, we love ideas – good or bad. At this point in the product development process, we encourage clients to let the ideas flow because you never know which one will stick.

divers team working together on big canvas in office

4 | Prototype 

You’ve selected your concept, so now it’s time to make it tangible. This is the bare bones of your new digital product, but it will tackle the user problems you’ve identified.

two colleagues working on an analogue prototype

5 | Test 

When you’ve built our prototype, it’s straight to the users you spoke to in the Emphasize stage. Then from here, it’s all about learning, iterating and refining.

2. Use all available accessibility tools

Use all available accessibility tools. We all should be more fluent in these accessibility tools because there’s no way that digital products and spaces can be fully inclusive without them.

Screen reader simulator:

Contrast checker: 

Accessibility checker: 

3. Get to know the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The WCAG is based around 4 considerations to help make online more accessible.

Perceivable – how the user absorbs information shown

Operable – how the user navigates the site or product

Understandable – the information and operation makes sense to the user

Robust – information is clear to be understood by everyone and compatible with assistive tech

How to use AI to make digital design inclusive

In the last section of the video, Guillaume discusses why AI is becoming increasingly important to design. But he also explains why AI should be challenged whenever possible and used with caution. Just as Le Corbusier’s Modulor concept homogenised architecture in the 20th century, unfortunately, AI has the potential to do the same to the digital spaces of the future. So businesses must be wary to avoid making the same mistakes again.

AI can help users by adapting to their behaviour over time. It can also efficiently gather data and act on customer feedback to help with future iterations.

When we say “we are what we eat”, AI is the same, as it’s only as good as the data it’s fed. In the video, Guillaume examines two examples of AI falling far short of being inclusive.

This demonstrates that if users are excluded from data sets, there is no way for AI systems to consider them. Just like when businesses create new digital products or when Le Corbusier outlined his Modulor system, the ever-increasing application of AI in our lives runs the risk of reflecting, even accelerating, existing prejudices of society.

So more than ever, we have to consciously include all users in the design process to feed algorithms with truly inclusive data.

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Is your digital product open to everyone?

Our team of product designers and strategic consultants can help transform your digital product into fully accessible and engaging tool that everyone can use. So, email, call or pay us a visit at our central Berlin office and let’s start innovating together.

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Wir sind ein Design- und Innovationsstudio, das ansprechende, zugängliche digitale Erlebnisse für alle schafft. Unser Team aus Produktdesignern und strategischen Beratern kombiniert anspruchsvolles Design und kreative Strategien, um Benutzeroberflächen zu entwickeln und auf den Markt zu bringen, die das Leben der Menschen nachhaltig verändern.

How to generate 14 marketable ideas within three days​

Workshops & Trainings

How to generate 14 marketable ideas within three days

Oct 8, 2020

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“Customer-oriented, intensive, passionate” – this is how Björn Kuse (CEO of the HelloFresh from the DACH region) describes the last three days of ENNO-led workshops. He and his team have used these focussed sessions to dream up new ideas and innovations for the future of this already successful cooking box business. 

Say hello to HelloFresh

Unlike so many other companies, HelloFresh is emerging from the Covid crisis stronger than ever. In the first quarter alone, HelloFresh was able to increase their turnover by 66% thanks to a million new customers. Which meant that its share value also rose by up to 300% compared to the previous year. 

However, Björn knows that you cannot rest on your laurels at moments like these. Now, more than ever, it is especially important to be thinking about how to continue this growth now and into the future. So, the challenge facing Björn is to ensure that these new customers recognise the practical advantages of HelloFresh’s cooking boxes so that they’ll keep on using them in the long term.

But how do you make an already well-positioned company even more futureproof? And how do you succeed in giving voice to employees with all their great ideas and then, make them a reality?

ENNO's studio tailor-made event for HelloFresh

The answer for HelloFresh: the “HelloFresh Hackathon 2020”.  An event which we at ENNO studio organised and ran on behalf of the cooking box pioneer which took place at the beginning of September. 

We designed the hackathon format tailoring it to HelloFresh’s goals and resources. Being from outside the business, it made it easier for us to spot weak points, but also, certain opportunities that employees may not have considered before. Now it was up to us to use HelloFresh’s existing potential and to coach team members how to present their ideas expertly but also, how to put them into practice.

How we ran the HelloFresh Hackathon 2020

Before the hackathon, we conducted three input sessions (which, due to coronavirus, took place remotely). We prepped the participants for some different idea-generating methods: Design Thinking, Rapid Prototyping and Speed Pitching. This established the important theoretical basis for the hands-on, in-person activities that would take place during the actual event.

Day 1 | The Ideas Marketplace 

On Day 1 of the hackathon, we organised an Ideas Marketplace, using the Open Space concept. Here, all ideas, suggestions, and problems were collected and “offered”. These could then be taken up and supplemented. These broad-ranging ideas were summarised thematically and specific groups were formed according to interests. We formed 14 highly motivated (and slightly competitive) teams which were ready to give their all to implement their ideas in the following two workshop days.

Day 2 | Prototyping & Pitch Preparation 

These teams began by formulating the problem statement based on the findings from the previous theoretical input sessions; then by thinking up solutions for the problem and finally, by designing prototypes to visualise their ideas. On this day, the task was to prepare a convincing pitch. During the process, the participants received professional support and coaching from 5 ENNO experts, who were always available to provide advice and assistance.

Day 3 | Competition 

On the last day, the hackathon culminated in a grand competition with the individual ideas of the teams being put through their paces and evaluated by a specialist jury. The toughest critics were probably their own long-standing HelloFresh customers who were invited in especially for this event. But even they were thrilled by the inventiveness and originality of the ideas.

Our tips on how to generate unbeatable ideas in a short time

Theoretical input & training
Preparation of the participants for the application of various methods, such as Design Thinking, Rapid Prototyping and Speed Pitching.

Open Space concept
Prepared ideas are collected, offered and developed further. After topic areas have been formed, interested parties come together as working groups on the respective topics.

Problem definition & creative solutions
Formulating a problem statement and finding creative and suitable solutions for it.

Prototyping
Visualisation of the ideas so that they are easy to understand and as realistic as possible for outsiders.

Pitching
Finding a suitable way to present the idea convincingly and concisely to convince a jury or a superior. If this is successful, work can be done on the realisation and implementation.

Outcome: satisfied customers (and employees)

In the end, everyone was happy with the outcome of HelloFresh Hackathon 2020. HelloFresh was happy because a collection of realistic ideas were developed, which were not only supported by management level, but also by the employees themselves – who left keen to make ideas reality. 

And HelloFresh customers were also happy because they can look forward to an even better customer experience in the future. And we at ENNO, because it makes us happy to be able to connect and support in the right places by applying our know-how.

4 reasons why good UX & UI design is inevitable for your company

Reasons why

4 reasons why good UX & UI design is inevitable for your company

Oct 6, 2020

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If you’re not convinced yet that it’s worth investing in professional designers, we now present the reasons why it’s time to level up your UX game. Good design is more than just aesthetics – especially the combination of a nice style, usability, innovation and consistently good user experiences are key to success. 

Reason #1: You should sell more than just a product or a service - you should sell an experience

Every point of interaction that the customer has with your offer should show convincing and consistent branding. Often the first mouse click is also the first impression the user has with your product and greatly influences any subsequent interactions.

Reason #2: It reflects your Corporate Philosophy

Companies that align the whole organisation to a certain Corporate Identity will also be more successful with their product. A design-first culture with a high focus on usability, reliability, and look & feel not only makes your core product more attractive, but employees also get behind the brand’s ethos far more.

Reason #3: Investment in UX means deeper customer understanding

UX is the discipline most important for developing successful products through customer orientation.

Even during the development process, constant user feedback can be gathered. Not only can you build better products for your customers, but you also save a lot of time and money, avoiding developing features that your customers don’t even want.

Reason #4: Smart and satisfying design influences purchase decisions and ups conversion

At the heart of behavioural economics is the assumption that we are not always rational beings. Our decisions are influenced by several factors that lay in our subconscious.

It is already well known that these factors can be consciously controlled by psychological and scientifically proven mechanisms. But we UX designers know what really appeals to the human brain – making us pros at guiding purchase decisions and boosting conversion rates.

Good design is the most important way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

— Yun Jong Yong, CEO Samsung

It's time to level up!

We believe that the best digital products attract customers and meet their needs through outstanding user experience. We work side by side with your team to share knowledge and deliver great results. 

If you want to know more about ENNO studio or share your experience and challenges with us, we’re happy to talk about them and how we can support you best.

The process of creating animated explainer videos

Insights

Meet Captain Jake, the star of our Insights video series

Jun 18, 2020

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After working alongside Horváth & Partners and Finnoconsult for a few years, we wanted to take what we had learned from them and share them in a set of motion design videos.

So have fun with our animated video series “INSIGHTS” and some “Behind-the-Scenes” where you can learn about its creation process beyond the final results. 

Animating Characters

As well as breaking down the facts on for example how to optimise goal setting, we had a blast producing the animation – and we managed to do it in a really short space of time, too. From ideation and storyboarding onto production it took us less than 10 days to finish. Go us!

Design Sketching Book

“Ideation to design” isn’t just something we preach in our design-thinking workshops – we also apply it to our everyday projects. These are early scribbles of the storyboard.

When coming up with the character concept of Captain Jake, we were looking for friendly, emphatic facial expressions and body language. During the series, the characters are likely to evolve but we had to decide quickly on Captain Jake’s look and feel; ensuring they were in line with the branding of both Horváth & Partners and Finnoconsult.

This was a new record for us. First we designed the assets on Illustrator and created the vectorial graphics. Then, to get a sense of depth, we played around with different layers and tried to craft isometric assets to get a feeling of “fake 3D”. Everything was made more dynamic by animating the clouds, water and the rest of the environment.

We took inspiration from the traditional French-Belgian “Bande Dessinée” codes, which can be seen in the facial and body expressions that look great without too much effort.
 
The whole story was animated with After Effects and despite the video being less than 30 seconds long, every render ended up taking more than an hour to complete. However, this meant any mistakes could be captured and corrected, and all iterations were refined for the finished product.

How to get the most out of your team and your projects.

In the first of our video series “INSIGHTS”, we’re focussing on how to set strategic goals in project management. This is something both Horváth & Partners and Finnoconsult practise themselves and encourage their clients to do during projects.

At ENNO, we can’t stress enough how much a clear goal helps kick start any project. All too often we see a massive change of direction at the last minute because a goal wasn’t clearly defined at the start.

Horváth & Partners and Finnoconsult are huge fans of the SMART grid model to help clients setting out their strategic goals. You can learn more about this (and more) by taking a look at the blog article by David Baum (Senior Project Manager).

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Why companies really have to understand their customers’ problems.

This is a video we created about how to “Solve Your Customers’ Problems”.

Horváth & Partners and FINNOconsult have often experienced during their work as strategic consultants that companies often focus on dealing with the symptoms instead of looking at the heart of a problem. As Albert Einstein once said: ‘If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about a solution.’

In this video with Captain Jake and his crew, discover how to focus more on your customers’ problems and pick up some tips and tricks on how to find and solve them. 

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How you can implement new ideas and business models both quickly and cost-effectively.

Do you know what an MVP is? These three letters stand for the “Minimum Viable Product”, which describes a first functional version of a product that could survive on the market.

It is all about quickly generating value for the customer, getting a first, slimmed-down version of the product that only includes the most important core functions and can be produced quickly. On that basis it can be improved and developed continuously with the help of customer feedback.

The problem of how to solve challenges with the help of MVPs is illustrated in our new Insight series by Captain Jake.

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Stay tuned for more videos coming soon, where we’ll present further INSIGHTS to you!

Our Partners

Finnoconsult Innovation consultancy for enterprises in the finance and insurance sector.

Horváth & Partners International management consultancy for corporate management and performance optimization.

Coming Soon!

We are still working on the website, if you want to have more information regarding this project, drop us an email.