Before a Minimum Viable Product, we need a Minimum Viable Gender Perspective
Some valuable questions to break down the gender binary in digital product design.
At Wolox, we work alongside our clients throughout their process of innovation to create high-impact solutions. My role as a Human-Centered Designer inside the Digital Business Design team involves working with different agile methodologies aimed at creating disruptive experiences.
We always start by understanding the user’s needs but I believe that my responsibility goes beyond that. I have to question myself and everyone else: When we say “user”, Who are we referring to? Who aren’t we considering? Are we building digital products that cater to people of the 21st century or the 19th? Why is it important that Human-Centered Design includes gender perspective as an integral dimension?
Nobody Centered Design
When we say “perspective” we are referring to a way to see or analyze a situation from a particular point of view. Contrary to popular belief, gender perspective wasn’t born in our times. It was introduced in Social Sciences in the 70s, then in Medicine, Natural Sciences, and even the tech industry.
“Gender perspective” is a popular term nowadays and especially important when it comes to: “Question stereotypes and create new content that can influence the collective imaginary of society to foster equality and equity”(UNICEF. Communication, Childhood and Adolescence, May 2017).
If designing is communicating, then our discipline is a very valuable tool to raise awareness about social issues and promote positive change. That is why I believe that introducing a gender perspective in design is one way to question binarism and its naturalization.
3 steps to acquire a Minimum Viable Gender Perspective
One of the main goals during UX research — or our Discovery Stage at Wolox — is to understand who are our users. Thus, we can identify their needs and design products that create meaningful experiences. But the question is: How can we design solutions for our users if we never had a chance to stop and really empathize with them from a diverse gender perspective?
Here we share with you 3 simple steps to identify and really put ourselves in their shoes.
Step 1: Be accountable for your decisions as a user experience designer
Inclusion and gender equity are not only necessary in Politics and Social Policies but also in the tech industry. Before going out to talk with users, let’s stop and go over some basic but fundamental questions:
- Is it possible to design gender-neutral products?
- Are there any products that need to be gender-specific?
- What is the impact of a design based on stereotypes?
- What happens if we don’t design taking into account different perspectives?
- How might we improve our research to understand gender diversity?
Make yourself these questions and start a conversation with your team to create more inclusive products and connect with people in more meaningful ways.
Step 2: Break down the gender binary
We all know that empathizing with our users plays a central role in any human-centered design process. However, it’s important not only to put yourself in their shoes but inside their skins, bodies, and minds. It is part of our role to understand that we are not all the same; we live different experiences and we must fight against our own social stereotypes and prejudices to create products from diverse perspectives.
Q was born as a result of this kind of exploration. It is the first genderless voice, created to end gender bias in AI assistants. It is a product of close collaboration between Copenhagen Pride, Virtue, Equal AI, Koalition Interactive & thirtysoundsgood.
Challenge yourself to rethink everything you took for granted as they did. It’s the only way to be aware of your role as a user experience designer in shaping the future of society.
Step 3: Integrate the Minimal Viable Perspective into your design process
There is no need to be part of the academic world to embrace equity and inclusion in design. We can find numerous tools that can help us rethink how we design and communicate with our users from different perspectives.
For example, in the Spanish-speaking community a deck of 64 cards called Perspectivas: género, helps us to analyze and create new pieces of content. It was created by Publicitarias.org and experts in inclusion.
It is a playful trigger to question biases, break gender stereotypes, expand our way of seeing the world, and do something to change it. The deck is a flexible tool that can be used individually or in a group to analyze, discuss, and create solutions.
Ask better questions
We work in an industry where interdisciplinary teams are part of designing customer experience. It is our challenge to find out how we can make these teams even MORE interdisciplinary by hacking our own process, fostering inclusion, and accessibility. It is our responsibility to be aware of gender bias in our products, so they do not perpetuate stereotypes, ultimately leading to reinforcing a binary perception of gender which has never been truly representative for all of us.
This is our challenge right now in the 21st century. Are you up for the task?