Without Digital Inclusion, we create Digital Poverty.
These days we expect businesses to provide us with the right solution for our needs, providing a solution for one specific type of user isn’t enough. A great example of this is restaurants. I have a nut allergy therefore I need to avoid any dishes that contain nuts and the food should be prepared in an environment without nuts. If the restaurant didn’t provide these options what do you do? Do you leave and go somewhere else? Only buys drinks? You’d hope there was an option for you regardless of your requirements. The same goes when creating digital products you need to create a solution regardless of the user's needs.
Inclusion is often overlooked during the design process. It’s seen as an unnecessary cost to the development process. Usually, the features and designs are not visible to the majority of users but those who need these requirements are left to fend for themselves or unable to use the technology, creating digital poverty.
What is Digital Poverty
The term Digital Poverty sounds extreme but millions of people in the UK live with it every day. What we mean by Digital Poverty is the inability to access digital products and services due to a number of factors. This could be poor internet access, accessibility requirements, lack of technical knowledge or understanding, fear of the unknown/technology in general. It’s up to us as designers and developers to make inclusion a priority.
When we design for inclusion we need to assess someone's digital access needs.
There are many different types of needs including, permanent needs such as a physical or cognitive disability. Temporary needs such as someone with a short term illness, stress or doing 10 things at once. Lastly, there’s environmental such as being somewhere with poor connectivity or working outdoors. All of these requirements need to be understood and designed for in any technology we build.
One of the major shifts in the last 12/18 months has been the move to a cashless society, one where cash is no longer accepted and digital payments are the default. This has forced many vulnerable people to attempt to adopt online banking and contactless payments.
To be transparent I’m an advocate for a cashless society but not at the cost of Digital Poverty, particularly for those who are vulnerable. The biggest issue with the banking sector is the complexity and length of processes you have to go through just to get logged in.
Even if you stay with the bank you already use the process of signing up for online banking involves multiple digital and analogue steps. You have to create your ‘Profile’, supply your email address, passcode, be sent a one time code to your phone, confirm address details, you’ll then most likely be sent temporary login details via the post! This is usually more than one letter to split the login details in case someone steals the letters. You then go back to the online banking site, sign in with the temporary credentials, create a new set of credentials and then taken through a basic onboarding process and face a myriad of menus, most of which aren’t relevant to the type of account you have.
And that’s just to log in! Try sending payment to someone you haven’t sent money to before, it’s a difficult and complex process with many threatening warnings about sending money to the wrong person. We should be helping people not terrifying them.
Keep it simple
There’s a lot of work to do to make banking inclusive. For the most part, keeping it simple is one of the best methodologies to use. Remove what’s not necessary and focus on what is and keep it consistent. Remove acronyms and industry-specific terms.
We did this at Collctiv and saw a dramatic increase in engagement in our app and platform.
Not just in the number of people using our app or the amount of time they were spending on it but the diversity of people. Older generations began to use us, people who traditionally aren’t ‘techy’ signed up. We still have work to do as inclusion is not a one-time exercise but it’s an ongoing focus for us.
It’s not just about removing complex terms though, can your product be used without reading all of the text? Iconography and video play a huge part in inclusion. People that find reading long text difficult, such as people with Dyslexia, will use imagery and video to navigate through a product.
The latest Neo Banks such as Monzo, Starling and Revolut all do a pretty good job of trying to remove the complexity of traditional banking. They create a simple, easy to use platform that gets people straight to where they want to be.
Selling Digital Inclusion to management within businesses can be difficult but inclusion can and will return bigger results. You open yourself to a new audience and they’ll be advocates of your product as well.
Digital inclusion isn’t easy but it is necessary and without it, we create Digital Poverty.