This article and checklist is reproduced from Econsultancy’s Neurodiversity and Digital Inclusion Best Practice Guide, authored by Rose Keen.

A note on scope:

The report does not cover all forms of inclusion and accessibility. It focuses on neurodiversity and ‘digital inclusion’, where the principles of accessibility are applied to digital experiences. The report recognises every neurodivergent person is an individual with unique experiences, however it does not cover every condition or requirement. It instead focuses on approaches which will have the broadest benefits.

The rise in the importance of customer experience (CX) for competitive fitness has been one of the defining trends in marketing and ecommerce in recent years.

CX is a broad term that encompasses everything related to a business that affects a customer’s perception and feelings about it, whether those be positive or negative. As a result, inclusivity and customer experience are intimately linked. Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, puts it succinctly: “If you care about your customers, you should care about inclusivity.

Key to delivering great CX is:

  • ‘empathy for the customer and having a deep understanding of their needs’;
  • and ‘a joined-up approach’ between teams.

These characteristics were cited as ‘critically important’ by 52% and 47% of respondents respectively in Econsultancy’s 2023 Future of Marketing survey. And they are just as important for creating more inclusive customer experiences.

CX is a wide-ranging term, and though inclusivity should be a consideration across all areas, Econsultancy’s recent guide to neurodiversity and digital inclusion focuses on developing an approach within UX, design, content and marketing campaigns. The report also includes sections on the business case for inclusion, accessibility, and inclusive employee experiences.

A checklist for creating more inclusive customer experiences

  • Ensure the organisation is meeting its legal obligations around accessibility and disability, and making reasonable adjustments. Make sure any content or digital experiences are in line with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
  • Consider inclusion from the very beginning. It is easier and cheaper to build in inclusivity from the start than introducing it retrospectively. This should apply across the development of products, experiences, campaigns or content.
  • Adopt a defined approach to creating inclusive experiences that is embedded within working practices and processes throughout an organisation, and is supported through training and access to expertise. Organisations should put checks in place to ensure that best practice is being followed and is up to date. It should be clear to all members of an organisation that inclusion is everyone’s responsibility and how that applies specifically to their role.
  • Consider adopting the seven principles of universal design as the basis for any approach. This is a useful holistic framework that will not only support the development of more inclusive experiences, but better design more broadly.
  • Gather insight. Research is key for understanding users’ needs and creating better customer experiences. This is equally true for creating more inclusive experiences. Ensure all product, design and marketing projects and launches are informed by an in-depth research-based understanding of the customer.
  • Test all new products and experiences with a diverse and representative set of users. User testing is key for product iteration and the creation of better products. Testing with a diverse set of users will give organisations a more robust understanding of how the product will behave in the wild and identify any missed opportunities. It is also a brand’s best defence against the reputational damage of creating an exclusionary experience.
  • Follow the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ for any community or identity whose story is being told – whether that is through working with campaigning groups or charities and ideally by employing diverse talent. Diverse and inclusive advertising and marketing tend to be more effective. However, authenticity of that portrayal is essential.
  • Do not aim for perfection, aim for better. The first step towards becoming more inclusive is often the hardest. Start by breaking down the objective of improving practices and experiences into smaller steps. Matt Roberts, Lead Digital and UX Designer at Sightsavers, recommends focusing first on specific user stories, insights or feedback and prioritising what matters most to the organisation. “Being willing to learn and improve is a healthier, more sustainable approach,” explains Roberts.