Designing for Inclusivity: An introductory and comprehensive guide

Portret Matilde
Written by
Matilde Cantinho
Digital Content Producer
Jan 10, 2024 . 16 mins read
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Our society is rapidly evolving, especially in the digital realm, which brings many benefits but can also have challenges. One of them is to ensure we are putting humans at the centre of all of that by creating products and services that are usable for everyone. This means that applying inclusive design in the process is now more relevant than ever as governments are creating and abiding by legislation accordingly.

While inclusivity can be a vast topic and used as an absolute buzzword, at Koos we recognise it as a cornerstone of top-notch and impactful design. But what does design for inclusivity design mean and how do we apply it to foster diversity, enhance user experiences and broaden market reach?

Why is inclusivity a crucial aspect of design?

Currently, more than one billion people worldwide present some form of physical or mental impairment, which directly affects their interaction with societies’ tools and resources. This is only an example of how the lack of accessibility to information is likely to interfere with participation in our digital society, and their community and drive to situations of exclusion.

The goal of designing for inclusivity is exactly to ensure that these products, services, and experiences are accessible and adapted to everyone, regardless of their abilities, backgrounds, or identities. This approach to design puts people at the centre of the digitalisation process, ensuring that digital products are not only accessible but also equitable. But, at its core, inclusive design goes beyond compliance with accessibility standards. It is about understanding and acknowledging the diverse needs and experiences of all users.

For businesses and designers, this means to proactively think about how their creations can strive to be inclusive from the outset, rather than addressing accessibility issues as an afterthought.

As a human case, we will look at the impact we can make by ensuring our services are more inclusive:

Even though Inclusive design is a relatively new field, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, we believe it can help break down these biases and promote diversity in society. It is still important to understand that there is no “golden key” to creating a product that works for everyone – since people are diverse, and their needs and experiences can vary greatly. 

Therefore, it is crucial to approach inclusive design with an open mind and a willingness to learn and adapt.

Our partnerships often task us with creating products that are inclusive and usable for everyone, as many of them are organisations like governments or municipalities that serve a diverse public. A prime example of our commitment to inclusive design is our project with the Royal Dutch Library. This institution plays a crucial role in Dutch society, particularly in supporting those who are less digitally savvy in navigating online government processes. To address this, we mapped the obstacles faced by users of official digital services and co-created an online tool specifically designed to be user-friendly for individuals with limited digital skills.

Another partnership illustrating the application of inclusivity in our design process is Cordaan, a healthcare provider based in Amsterdam, on a project focused on Parkinson’s disease. 

We recognised that many patients, especially those from immigrant backgrounds, were not receiving adequate care or support due to low literacy levels and cultural disconnects in existing materials. In response, we created an animated video that was not only informative and simple but also culturally sensitive and relatable for the target audience.

These projects showcase our approach to inclusive design and our efforts to ensure that our products meet the needs of diverse user groups. 

Navigating Inclusive Design and everything in between

To better understand Inclusive Design as a methodology, we have to understand the different terms that have emerged around the topic of inclusivity. At Koos, this is how we define them and bring all together as designers to help us create inclusive design:

Diversity in Inclusive Design

One of the key challenges in inclusive design is understanding and acknowledging the diversity of the target audience. Let’s think of an iceberg as a way to illustrate how broad diversity can be. Diversity goes beyond how someone looks like; it’s also about their experiences, abilities, and cultural backgrounds. This means diversity is not always visible and can change over time.

.We often refer to diversity traits in two ways: as inherent (unchangeable characteristics from birth) or acquired (not necessarily visible traits that can change over time).

In conclusion, is crucial to acknowledge diversity beyond the surface, including aspects like mental health and financial capabilities which can be often overlooked. Therefore, it’s essential to co-create with the target audience to ensure that the design is informative, simple, and relatable.

Inclusion in Diversity

When referring to inclusion, we observe it as more of a social construct. It is a feeling of belonging and feeling included within a group or in society as a whole. 

In order to have diverse perspectives you need to include different views into your process.

Biases in Inclusive Design

Following, it is time to explore the concept of unconscious biases, which are commonly referred to with a negative connotation despite being intrinsically human. These are instinctive preferences shaped by our evolution, originally meant to help our ancestors make quick, life-saving decisions. Today, biases streamline our daily choices, preventing information overload. However, they can also lead to unfair assumptions and behaviours, particularly when designing services or digital features.

Understanding our biases is then crucial to avoid unfair or misaligned situations. For instance, affinity bias means that we as a society are drawn towards people who share the same beliefs and values and act like ourselves, influencing social interactions and decision-making. Ageism unfairly discriminates against individuals based on age, affecting both old and young generations. Lastly, confirmation bias, known as the ‘mother of all misconceptions’, leads us to seek out information that supports our pre-existing beliefs, even if they are unfounded.

It’s important to recognize and challenge these biases to foster fair and inclusive environments and products. Take a moment to reflect on these examples and consider how they might influence your perspective.

Building Inclusive Design: Integrating Accessibility, Usability, and Representation

The last part of the journey to discuss is inclusive design. The methodology encompasses all the previous terms and assures they are taken into consideration. 

And it is a combination of all the previous terms together that allows us to build inclusive design

Inclusive design is about creating for the full range of human diversity in ability, language, culture, gender, age, and more, to empower everyone to participate. And, opposite of general thought, it is not just about accessibility; it also encompasses usability and representation.

Accessibility refers to the ability to use a product based on measurable factors, such as how information is provided. Nowadays, accessibility has increasingly become relevant in ensuring that digital products are perceivable, operable, and robust for all, including those who use assistive technologies like screen readers or voice control. With governments mandating adherence to guidelines like the WCAG for public platforms. These focus on making a product as accessible as possible – so a digital product must be presentable in a way that users can always perceive. For designers and developers, this means always building a product that, for example,  can also allow blind people to read their interface with a screen reader or deaf people to read alternative text for video or audio content, etc.

It is crucial to stay updated with these evolving standards, which are currently over more than 70 guidelines on the WCAG platform, to ensure your compliance is up to date. 

For example, we are currently working with WCHG 2.2 guidelines in the Dutch Digital Identity Wallet, which has just been released a couple of months ago. At the same time, the WCHG 3 guidelines are currently under construction already.

Usability, on the other hand, goes beyond access as it also measures the effort it takes someone to achieve a goal when they use a product. 

By observing this graph on the Dutch population with limitations to digital products, we can suddenly understand why so many people are limited in using digital services.

For instance, low literacy can be a significant issue within certain target groups, and cultural differences can make some examples or explanations unrelatable. If you are one of the 680,000 dyslexic, you might benefit from visual communication on the platform but visuals might contradict to design for the visually impaired. 

Therefore, it is essential to consider the diverse needs of our audience to ensure that the solution is informative, simple, usable and relatable. Which can be understood through user testing and co-creation with a varied and representative group of users.

It is crucial to stay updated with these evolving standards, which are currently over more than 70 guidelines on the WCAG platform, to ensure your compliance is up to date. 

For example, we are currently working with WCAG 2.2 guidelines in the Dutch Digital Identity Wallet, which has just been released a couple of months ago. At the same time, the WCAG 3 guidelines are currently under construction already.

Last but not least, representation is about ensuring that no one is overlooked and that everyone’s experiences and identities are reflected in the design. As designers, the choices we make in placeholders for copy or images can influence the final product. We must be mindful of our target audience from the start to avoid biases and truly reflect the diversity of users.

Remember, as Frank Chimero, visual designer and author of the book The Shape of Design, says “People ignore design that ignores people.” Let’s create designs that everyone can see themselves in and use with ease.

Inclusive Design in action: a continuous journey towards Inclusivity

So, putting everything into perspective, in the realm of design, the pursuit of inclusivity is a journey, a process not a destination or outcome. It is a commitment to understanding and dismantling our unconscious biases, embracing diversity, and ensuring that our products and services are accessible, usable, and representative of the rich tapestry of human experience.

It is something that you grow in and incorporate into your own design process. It should be a part of your design journey from the start to the end, woven into every phase.

At Koos, we have adopted a model that reflects this philosophy, guiding us to consider inclusivity at every stage. Our Koos approach, an adaptation of the double diamond process, involves understanding the user and business context, imagining innovative solutions, creating MVPs, and helping to scale up and expand the horizons of your service or business.

Throughout this process, we must challenge our biases, which can surface at any point and influence our decisions. By defining key steps to integrate inclusive design into each phase, we ensure that every voice is heard, every perspective is considered, and every solution is crafted with the entire audience in mind.

For instance, in the understanding phase, we confront our biases head-on. In the imagining phase, we strive for diversity of thought. During creation, we engage with all facets of our target users, and in scaling up, we address any overlooked accessibility criteria to support a wider user base.

Our inclusive design process is not about starting big; it is about starting right. It is about setting inclusive KPIs and embedding them into your project scope from the outset. It is about building upon existing frameworks to create a process that is uniquely yours, yet universally inclusive.


We have put this into practice in various projects, such as:

  • The Dutch Digital Identity Wallet for the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, where we are aiming to create a fully accessible digital identity solution. As we aim for triple-A WCAG accreditation, the project balances high accessibility with broad usability, while navigating European legislative constraints. The team’s efforts underscored the importance of inclusive design in government-issued digital solutions, ensuring that all citizens could participate in the digital landscape effectively and equitably.



  • The Inclusive patient information platform together with RAK, is an example of accessibility and representation that improves the stressful process of moving to a care home for patients and their loved ones. 


These projects exemplify the balance between accessibility and usability, and the importance of considering the entire ecosystem in which our designs operate.

Don’t tolerate people as different, accept them as part of the spectrum of normalcy

— Ann Northrop

Reach one of the experts if you want to know more about our approach to Inclusive Design and the related projects

Monse-maell Hopman

Stijn Nering Bögel

Our designer loves diving into design trends and creating a good mix between customer, brand, and great design.
Portret Matilde
Written by
Matilde Cantinho
Digital Content Producer
Jan 10, 2024 . 16 mins read
Share this article