Creating digital products to include the excluded

  • August 2021

At Here I Am we have been creating new, better ways to include the excluded since before the beginning of the digital revolution.

Throughout that time we have learnt that standard approaches to creating digital products do not enable us to effectively design for excluded communities.

Firstly, when you are creating for users in higher income countries, there are assumptions that you can make. They will likely have a smartphone, loaded with data and easily charged. If they have visual or hearing impairments, they will likely be diagnosed and treated. However, for those individuals that are the hardest to reach, we cannot rely on these types of assumptions. Our understanding has to be deeper, more forensic and always authentic, in order to design effectively for them and their context.

To achieve this, we need to involve our users as much as possible throughout the design process and project lifecycle. However, that’s the second barrier to standard approaches. The contexts in which we operate are imperfect. Our users can’t just jump on Zoom for a co-creation session, so we have to find alternative ways to reach them.

Finally, we’re examining the ways in which we engage our users. Often engagements with those living in excluded communities can be intimidating, disruptive and extractive. We want to create an approach that is comfortable, enjoyable and rewarding for all those involved.

We’ve been on a journey to create an approach that overcomes these hurdles. Our mission is to be able to design as effectively for excluded communities, as for any other group.

As with any good process, ours is ever evolving. We are open to change with every new lesson we learn.

Here’s how it stands today.

The Here I Am Engagement Model

The Here I am Engagement Model is our methodology for designing for the excluded. The approach is defined by the following three engagement principles;

Engagement Principles

Here I Am Understood - Understanding the emotional, physical and environmental factors that are preventing inclusion

Here I Am Involved - Involving users in the design, evolution and lifespan of our products in a way that suits them and their needs

Here I Am Respected - Being respectful when arranging, conducting and documenting user engagements

Each of these principles is underpinned by a set of practices. Over the coming weeks we’ll be sharing these key practices, so keep an eye on LinkedIn and Twitter for more information.

Combining industry best practice for creating digital products with our unique Engagement Model, we can make strides towards our goal of including 50 million excluded people by 2023.