Every designer is playing a part in the image and feeling that their users get from their products and companies. Interactions are influenced in a powerful and meaningful way, beyond just completing a task. Inclusive design isn’t new, but it’s becoming noticed more and more as companies begin to realise that it’s not only good for people and culture, but also good for business.
What is gender inclusive design?
Inclusive design is simply designing a product/service that is equally as accessible, engaging and effective for as many different users as possible. When we define this around gender, it’s ensuring the same for all who may be outside of the socially constructed binary gender markers (male/female).
The best way to ensure any design is gender inclusive, is to include the awareness within the design process itself.
Key Terms to Understand before starting
This isn’t a glossary, but there are a few terms that should be familiar across the team before the journey begins. There are many more, but these should support in the beginning to ensure all team members have the same understanding:
Gender - It’s complex. It’s personal. It’s individual. It’s way beyond the realms of he/she.
Sex - This isn’t gender. We’ve split them into two bullet points to ensure this comes across! Sex refers to the biological differences between females, male and intersex people.
Gender expression (or presentation) - This can relate to how a person may look, dress or act that may affect how others perceive their gender. However, gender presentation isn’t an excuse to immediately apply a label. A persons pronouns are what they tell you they are, no matter what you may perceive from their expression.
Cisgender - This term refers to when a persons gender expression matches that of their assigned sex at birth. to give you an example. If a person were assigned male (sex) at birth and identify as a man (gender), they are a cisgender person. However, if you were assigned male (sex) at birth and identify as female/nonbinary (gender) you are not cisgender.
Trans - This is a term for people who’s sex at birth does not align with their gender.
How to use gender-inclusive language
- Avoid gendered words - Try not to use words such as ** “guys,” “girls,” “ladies,” “postman” “hostess”. With these, there is an implication that the person you’re trying to describe falls into a binary gender group. It most scalable to avoid gendered words as much as possible, to ensure you don’t segregate an audience.
- Normalise the use of They - Pronouns are really important. It’s always best to ask your subjects pronouns instead of making an assumption on their gender expression. Normalising the use of They/Them/Theirs means that you have less chance of making anyone feel excluded when talking to or about a group of people.
- Let a user define their name - In many cases, it can be difficult when a user is completing a form field that requires them to enter their legal name. Their legal name may not match their preferred name. When we use this data in communication or marketing it can be emotionally jarring to see it. Let the user tell you their name to avoid frustration or emotional upset.
Gender vs Sexuality
As a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, this is one of the most common mistakes that I have seen many make when reflecting on gender inclusivity. Gender and sexuality are very different. Whilst we talk about gender & sex, sex in this capacity is related to defined, socially constructed binary markers.
Sexuality is the word used to define the sexual feeling of attraction that we have towards another person. It’s just as deeply personal as gender, and should be approached with the same sensibility, however it has no impact on someones gender.
Create a vision of what inclusion looks like for you
Within the Design process we often create a design system, focused on ensuring that all designers are creating content/products that live and breathe the brand image or ethos. This usually involves colours, typefaces etc.
Creating an Inclusion System can be a great step to ensuring that the designs/products being created by your team are not only on brand, but also represent the brands values of a gender neutral vision.
You can begin by reviewing the colour themes/typography to ensure they aren’t inherently feminine or masculine. Make sure your imagery represents a wide array of genders and isn’t too binary. Finally, if you’re going to use icons to suggest gender within a design, make sure you understand their meaning fully.
People feel comfortable in a place where they feel represented. Focusing your design system or themes too heavily towards a binary gender could be causing you to miss out on a wider audience of wonderful users.
Gender Inclusive language is the way forward
Attitudes towards gender are beginning to evolve and see some steps in a more inclusive direction. Whilst many don’t believe that we will ever fully lose the need for some gender specific products or services, there’s no denying that a conversation is being had on how much precedence it has in todays world of design.
The route to a more expansive and less restrictive look towards gender is good for everyone. By following and responding to the message that’s being expressed socially, continuing the conversation around gender being less binary means you ensure that your audience of users feels valued and represented, thus providing them more of a reason to continue to use any product or service you provide.
Start your journey to designing a more gender inclusive product in Marvel, using our in-built design tool and prototyping features. Want to test your your users response to your designs? Capture important feedback through audio and video by creating a User Test from your Prototype.
Marvel provides you with a tool to support you in every step of the design process.