As the world continues to evolve, humans rely more and more on technology for daily life. Often, that technology is designed and built by people who are not representative of the diversity of the end users.

In 2010 Joseph Heinrich and colleagues introduced the term WEIRD, an acronym for “Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic”. This term assumes that:

“Either there is little variation across human populations, or that these ‘standard subjects’ are as representative of the species as any other population”.

IncluCity Director Luis Berumen, in his article, Sparkling long-lasting inclusive technology notes:

“According to Clayton Christensen, over 30,000 new products are introduced annually, and 95 percent fail.”

With a 95% failure rate and growing diversity;

  • How does someone with a speech disability navigate voice-activated software? 
  • How does someone with visual impairment navigate what they can’t see?
  • How do language barriers impact user experience or success?   
  • How do people without digital literacy navigate the digital world?

The Inclusive Testing Concept

In 2019 the question of inclusive usability testing was presented at the CivicTechYYC Hackathon. Ideas were born, momentum grew, and in 2020, IncluCity built a project team. The community grew through a research partnership with Mount Royal University’s Vivacity Program and they partnered with CalgaryUX to form IncluCity Calgary. Today they have over 100 volunteers and their diverse tester pool has grown to over 250 individuals from across Calgary

Exploring the development and testing of technology, new products and services are designed and built with a target customer base in mind. However, rarely do designers solicit input from that target group. Consequently, the accessibility of that product of service is then tested by a pool of typical users with physical and digital accessibility. IncluCity summarizes this with this simple illustration from their online presentation:  

The IncluCity table below helps distinguish the nuances between traditional and inclusive testing.

As services and access transitioned to digital during the pandemic in 2020, the digital divide grew. The City of Calgary notes common barriers to digital access in its Digital Equity Strategy:

”This has increased the digital divide within communities across the nation as many people still do not have the technology access, tools, or skills they need to work, study or connect online.

 This strategy, and the team behind it, recognize that supporting Calgarians to reduce the digital divide will build stronger communities.”

2021 Pilot Project

In 2021 IncluCity conducted its first pilot project with Buoyancy Works, a job transition platform that focuses on wellness first. Buoyancy recognized job seekers’ challenges during employment transition and built a platform to address wellness issues first. Through 1:1 coaching, Buoyancy helps rebuild candidates, allowing them to job search in a healthier wellness position.

As a pilot, this was an ideal project to test the IncluCity concept as he pandemic continued to disrupt all industries. As a result, existing employment challenges became amplified.  With the platform geared towards those unemployed or in employment transition, testing done by those gainfully employed might produce skewed results from the target audience. The wellness challenges and stresses facing job seekers may not impact or correlate to the experience of employed testers.  

Chic Geek Project

chic geek logo

One of IncluCity’s recent projects was inclusive testing for Chic Geek, an organization focused on attracting and retaining women in technology. Chic Geek wanted to ensure the intake form for their career pathing service was inclusive and user-friendly to under-represented populations.

Through testing, IncluCity was able to identify aspects that work and identify straightforward modifications that make the user experience more inclusive. Specifically, they identified ways to build trust with the end user by adding simple questions and options, showing clear pricing information early in the process, and using non-culturally based language subject to misinterpretation. Consequently, Chic Geek was able to make the process straightforward for all users. 

Continuing to Grow

IncluCity has evolved, grown, and built a diverse community of over 250 testers, 100 volunteers, and received funding from Calgary Foundation to launch this project. IncluCity has completed 6 projects varying in size, scope and deliverables. They have executed four full user tests that include anywhere from 5-21 testers, distributing payments to 41 community members in the process. 

In late 2021 IncluCity Calgary was granted not-for-profit status under the Societies Act. As well, a Calgary Foundation grant in 2022 allowed IncluCity to expand, adding a project coordinator. Continued recognition is an excellent indicator that IncluCity is on the right path.

What is success in 2023?

Success in 2023 looks like growth. Continued funding will allow IncluCity to increase its capacity to engage with diverse communities. Additionally, they will raise awareness about inclusive design and testing, and support ecosystems with solutions that work for everyone.

Additionally, IncluCity hopes to work with organizations across more sectors as well as community-based projects. They are exploring a sliding-scale model to break down barriers to access early in the design process. They understand that inclusive user research, design and testing is a luxury to many organizations.  In effect, this model will allow them to work with a range of organizations with varying abilities to pay for the service. The proactive design will benefit both the organizations and their customers by avoiding common problems and minimizing changes in the design process. Consequently, this builds efficiency and increased organizational capacity to understand users.

Place2Give Foundation, as a Donor Advised Fund, supports IncluCity in developing and implementing this inclusive testing model. If you are interested in contributing to this initiative please visit their fund page. For more information on Donor Advised Funds and how they can help your ideas grow, contact Place2Give today.

For more information on how to join IncluCity as a volunteer or tester, see Get Involved with IncluCity.