Diversity Is Key
July 11, 2020
By Kara Waldemer
Diversity: Don't just build the "best" product, build the right one
As IT professionals, we make it our goal to always build the best solution that we can. We spend countless hours discussing and designing, building and refactoring, validating and testing. However, despite doing so much to build the best product, we don't always build the right product.
For many products, diversity can be the missing key. Diversity in all stages of the pipeline is critical in building not only the "best" solution but, more importantly, the "right" solution. Not sure you agree? Just look at the seat belt.
Here is an example of how it is possible to do everything you can think of to build the best product and still get so much wrong. The seat belt has existed for a long time. It has been engineered and reengineered in attempts to improve it and cars go through rigorous testing dedicated to them and other safety features and yet it is still not "right" for many of its users. According to a study published in 2011, women are 73% more likely than men to be injured in an accident when wearing a seatbelt.
How could this happen, what about all of the testing and reengineering? It turns out all of it was done from the perspective of male bodies and because they didn't have more diversity in their design, engineering, and testing teams, they missed the mark for a huge percent of their users.
People with different experiences and skills are going to help ensure that your product appeals to the most people. Including and considering the needs of people with color blindness, dyslexia, etc in your design phase can ensure that your new website will be more easily enjoyed. Including engineers with less traditional IT experience in your building phase can help you think out of the box and find different, potentially better, solutions to problems you thought you solved a long time ago. Testing your mobile site or app in rural areas or locations with weaker internet connections can help you ensure that no matter where your user is your solution performs well.
The decisions you make when building IT solutions may not seem as critical as the design of the seat belt, but your designs and choices can have a huge impact on your users and including more diversity in all stages can be the factor that takes you from building the "best" product to building the "right" product.
This work by Kara Waldemer is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).