Universal Access: People Matter

Design isn't about technology. It's about people.

People will be using our systems. Real people with real needs. We shouldn't insult them by delivering irrelevant solutions. We shouldn't ignore them by building systems that won't work for them, or telling them they need to have bought the latest technology to use our software or our website when what they need to do has nothing to do with the latest technology.

Our solutions shouldn't arbitrarily work for some people and not others. We need to pay attention to people who own different technologies, who have disabilities, who are of a different nationality than ourselves, who have less technical education or computer literacy. In fact, it's often the people with less skills and resources who are most in need of our solutions. Moreover, it's all too common that the majority of users do not match our initial expectations. We must avoid defining our audience too narrowly, and we need to make the effort to understand our users.

Universal design emphasizes the need to anticipate a broad range of users from the outset, and the critical value of supporting disabilities and internationalization, even if it at first appears to involve some compromises. Often, designing from this perspective will create a better design for everyone.

People matter. If someone's dissatisfied with your system, don't ignore them or write it off as their problem. Good design respects users, with all their limitations. Just because someone can figure out how to use your system doesn't mean you should make them waste time figuring it out. Aim for designs to be transparent. Don't complain about lazy users if you're a lazy designer. If it's hard to find a good design solution, keep trying. Solutions take time, but are usually easier to discover than expected if the design process is systematic.

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