#7 VoiceLunch NL - Inclusive Design - June 10th

#7 VoiceLunch NL - Inclusive Design - June 10th.

Do we design for a brand or for the users and with users do we mean all the people of certain groups? Inclusive design is a wide term. Experts gave their thoughts on how they made their designs more inclusive and what inclusive design means for them. Before the discussion of the 7th VoiceLunch NL started.

Expert: Anja de Castro.

Low literacy is more common in the Netherlands then you might think. It is still a taboo to talk about it openly. Just think about the following: 4,5 million people have a disability in The Netherlands, of which 2,5 mln people are functionally illiterate.They have trouble with reading, writing and/or mathematics. If you look at this from a national perspective it means almost 1 in 7inhabitants of the Netherlands have a low literacy.

Shockingly, they have trouble with understanding the news outlet about the current Corona outbreak. Due to the fact of the different names (Corona, Covid-19, Virus, etc.) in combination with fake news about it.

Voice especially might help these people along. They can use the terms they know and get the right response. This makes them more independent and gain confidence.

To make things even more complicated, this group quite often also has problems using new technologies.You as a conversation designer or involved with the design process can help them a lot.

Make sure to:

  • Manage your users expectations.
  • Make things as simple as possible.
  • Use simple words and sentences.
    • No long sentences.
    • No compound sentences.
    • No double denials.
    • Don’t ask ambiguous questions
  • Use a maximum of 3 options.

Expert: Timon van Hasselt (timonvanhasselt@visio.org)

A disability is not always something of an individual, it can also be the context in which the user is present in that is (temporary) disabling. For instance, take a look at the next video for a voice experience while driving (in Dutch, with subs): https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/uYbkBGQ1-0Q?rel=0&controls=1&showinfo=1&cc_load_policy=1

We can actually learn from the experiences of people with disabilities for the use of technology in permanent or temporary disabling situations. So the learnings are far more rich than only for a niche group. VIPS (visually impaired persons) are the experts in their own experience on this terrain. They have been dealing with voice interactions for quite some time now. What can we learn from their experiences and can we apply these insights for the use of voice (assistants, technology) to improve the usability for the majority? We believe we can, by involving VIPS at the start of the innovation/ design process (instead of afterwards).

Microsoft has great insights on inclusive design; especially the persona spectrum is interesting to remember! https://www.microsoft.com/design/inclusive/

Reading tip: Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design, by Kat Holmes ( senior UX designer at Google, former UX designer at Microsoft, and responsible for their inclusive design approach)

Expert: Maaike Coppens.

As seen in the example of Timon we are all physically or mentally challenge at certain moments, when driving a car - or when we’re feeling exhausted for an extended period of time - for example. We do have to take feelings and behaviour into account for everyone. Somethings might sound like a lot of fun for one person, yet to someone else it might sound like an insult.

The first thing when designing an user experience is to know your use case. When you design for voice only you will exclude people, such as people who have trouble with talking. Do use other channels when designing an user experience, so everyone is included. Make sure that everyone can get access to the same information on their preferred platform.

When you do design for voice you should take the amount of options into account and adjust your text. The way you write on your website or app is not necessarily the way you want to sound on voice.

Secondly, people make use of persona’s when designing for voice. Creating an avatar with this persona does exclude people - based on the name, gender, ethnicity. Users might not at all relate to an avatar persona, or even feel insulted by it.

Thirdly, as briefly mentioned before, chatbots and voice assistants sometimes exclude people as well by adopting human names. For example, people that are called Alex, or Alexa now have a hard time. https://www.wsj.com/articles/alexa-stop-making-life-miserable-for-anyone-with-a-similar-name-1485448519

Other than just having a bot named after you - there is also the question of the relatability to that name. Names often evoke a certain ethnicity, origin, gender …

Try not to exclude people by choosing a single-platform approach, working with avatar persona’s or giving them specific names.

Expert: Krijn Janse.

Users use your product on various moments of the day in different contexts. Take listening to the news. Usually people watch the news around 7 or 8 in the morning and 6 or 7 in the evening. Now with Voice it slowly but surely starts to spread throughout the day.

For inclusive design to happen it was important to know what the user needs throughout the day. To know what they wanted to hear, for how long, in which way and how they asked their voice assistant for it.

In the beginning we looked at error prompts. How we can guide the user through the conversation and make sure they could find what they wanted. One thing would be by clustering a group for when a user asked for radio or podcast. So they got prompts back for the specific content category they asked for. If we didn’t know what they were asking they got a different prompt.

Next to, keeping up with all the ways the users asked for content. If they were searching for a new category such as radio stations for specific regions we could add that for them. In order to keep up with the language and searching methods the user uses.

Finally, voice is not the only channel the user uses the product on. In case the user couldn’t find what they were looking for or they kept asking for more options we send them to pages within the mobile app. Make sure your focus is not only on voice specific, try to connect the other platforms you have to strengthen them together.

Expert: Marion Mulder.

Inclusive design can start with things that might feel natural to us. Just think about when you greet a room full of people. You might say, ‘Hi guys’, this alone certainly does not include women or non-binary. Make sure you look back at what you wrote for your voice assistant or any other product. Does it exclude people?

Just imagine that you live in a world where you are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident then someone else. This is the case today for women. Due to the fact that a lot is built by and for men. Next to the fact that many researches are biased on male data or perception. A book that explains exactly why there is an urgent need for diversity in design is: https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Women-Exposing-World-Designed/dp/1784706280/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=invisible+women&qid=1591971802&sr=8-3

To increase diversity Marion is a proud ambassador of Women in Voice NL. In order to not only bring a more diverse group together, but also teach what you can do to make designs more inclusive. Are you looking for a chapter of Women in Voice in your region, look here: https://womeninvoice.org/chapters/

To extend how biased a voice assistant is. When voice assistants were launched they worked 70% better for male users. Almost all of the User Interfaces have a female voice. Is this really the way we should want things to be?

The discussion.

Another way to look at inclusive design is by involving technology in the building proces of houses. Renee mentions that during the process of adding technology in houses to help people with disabilities. Voice is an extra layer, it is not the center point. A voice doesn’t always work the way you want it to, due to accents or disabilities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1FDXlSnppM

A great technology adapts itself to you, says Marion. There’s a difference between equality and equity. Take a look at the image below. We can make sure Voice or other technologies work for everyone. However, the solution might be to remove the obstacle, the fence. To include more diverse people in the design process of the technology, to create products based on unbiased data. Data that is not based on the (white) male perspective.

Source: https://nam.edu/the-case-for-health-literacy-moving-from-equality-to-liberation/

To design for voice only is to exclude some users. Like Maaike Groenewegen mentions, we have senses to strengthen one another. And if we do look at voice first. What are the best acoustic voices we can use in different situations, excluding gender biases?

A voice has the ability to bring emotions up and when doing so which one do you as a designer want to bring up? Which emotions do you as a brand want to activate or avoid? A book that gives some insights into this is the following: www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198743187.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780198743187

Many designers start with personas perhaps one should think about anti-persona’s as Maaike Coppens explained in the following interview. The anti-persona part starts at 12.30. However do watch the whole video, it is amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqjB0uEHWhQ&t=938s

When entering voice many designers should ask themself, who do you put at the center of your design. As Klaas described it there’s a tension between inclusivity on one side and at the other side playing into the preferences of a specific persona.

Remember when you enter the field what might sound innocent to one is harmful for another. Simply the sentence ‘Sorry, I did not hear that’ is not perceived well by people with a hearing disability.

Let go of your perceptions, you want to engage with the user, you want to design something that is functional for them.

More inclusive design theory.

A highly recommended podcast are the ones of Space Race and Open Voice with Sophie Kleber. She is an expert in intuitive interfaces and she shares clear ideas on how our relation with technology is changing. In these podcasts she discusses whether we should design the voice assistants close to human beings.

Space Race: https://share.transistor.fm/s/034ae1e8

Open Voice Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6x1FTpXg7ZxvVjVVO1UmPw?si=-sqpRHcUSaWGgi8HqxorGw

As mentioned before there are quite a few people named Alexa. Even Siri Mehus could not avoid having the same name as a voice assistant. Even her daughter has the same issue, who started a petition against using human names for bots. Watch how you can design for voice: https://vimeo.com/409586412?utm_campaign=Open%20Voice%20week&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter

Speech Recognition by Ai can be trained to understand people with speaking disabilities, Google Euphonia is a great example: https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/7/18535674/google-project-euphonia-live-relay-speech-recognition-disabilities-impairments-io-2019

Diversity and inclusion is part of the mission of Mozilla, https://blog.mozilla.org/careers/mozilla-diversity-inclusion-2019-results/. They try to extend this though in the products they make, such as the project Common Voice. This will most definitely be one of the discussion points during the Mozilla Festival next year in March, in Amsterdam: https://www.mozillafestival.org/nl/.

Many do assume that voice and elederly are a perfect match, yet do they want it: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/22/alexas-robotic-voice-leaving-dementia-patients-deeply-distressed/

Being blind and designing for tech can give interesting perspectives that can be used by others (press setting, automatic translation for English subtitles): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvQX_-J99so

Tim in ‘t Veld company: http://blindmobility.nl/

Another great campaign by WomenInc about gender bias with a chatbot nevertheless (in Dutch), https://vraagclara.nl/

A Dutch platform for inclusivity is https://www.oneworld.nl/. Where you can find everything from articles, podcasts to jobs all with an inclusive mindset.

Want to know more about the facts and figures of low literacy in the Netherlands (in Dutch): https://www.lezenenschrijven.nl/uploads/editor/2018_SLS_Literatuurstudie_FeitenCijfers_interactief_DEF.pdf

Book tips:
Note: when reading books based on data. Do ask yourself if this data is not biased on gender or race.

Marion: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men.

Maaike Groenewegen: The Oxford Handbook of Voice Perception.

Bart Bellefroid: Wired for speech.


Great notes Krijn! Thanks a lot!