Inclusive Design

In previous posts, I presented a viewpoint about how to organize teams for collaboration. In a way, the previously shown organization methods describe ways to promote inclusive design.

What exactly do I mean when I say “inclusive design”? Inclusive design is the process where a diverse set of folks provide feedback and share in the design process from the start. When I say diverse above, I don’t only mean others that don’t look like you or have the same characteristics as you; I also mean different disciplines.

Hearing the perspectives of various people during the design process sounds very obvious. However, in practice, teams often do not seek this sort of inclusive design culture. For the most part, there isn’t a deliberate statement to exclude someone. What ends up happening, though, is that there are several assumptions made about the problem or environment where the end product will be operating. Oh, and add on top of that a deadline that’s coming up quickly or is already past due.

Let’s reflect on an example. A developer must deliver new functionality on a website that allows configuring a unique setting that previously was immutable. This task sounds very simple. An initial approach the developer considers is merely adding a textbox under the application settings, restrict the textbox to the type of input expected (after all, they have heard about input sanitization), and write it to the database that already exists. Their immediate team reviews the design, the developer codes it up and submits the pull request, only to find that a subset of the tests broke and the git automation for secret management pages the whole team. What happened here? This “simple feature” didn’t turn out to be so “simple.” Were the folks specializing in testing consulted on how adding the textbox would affect automation? How about understanding the access patterns to the database? Were the designers asked to evaluate the usability of the configurability of the application? How about the accessibility of this new setting or handling input in different locales?

Perhaps the example is a bit contrived with some very cooked up cases. However, many reading this will relate to a problem that suffered because inclusive design principles weren’t applied initially. (In all fairness, though, the example isn’t all that contrived. I’ve seen each of those happen on separate instances!)

Here’s a call to action!

The next time that a design task lands with you and you think the design is complete, ask yourself whether you were genuinely inclusive in the design process. Did you leave your desk early in the design phase to talk to others across the team? Did you seek out those with testing, infrastructure, security, or user design experience? Did you try to understand the bigger picture of this task? Let’s make it easier for our software to use and operate. We owe it to our future selves.


Welcome to 2020!

It’s a start to a new year and a new decade! It’s a time for resolutions and beginning new habits. Instead of resolutions this year, I’m setting a few goals for myself and areas to be mindful of throughout the year.

  1. Blogging.  Late in 2019, I picked up blogging after eight years. I’m going to keep the conversation going and aim to put up new posts throughout the year. Topics will include software development, engineering management, tutorials, and possibly other areas as I find new areas to explore. If there are areas of particular interest, please reach out to me via a comment on this post, LinkedIn, or email.
  2. Mentoring.  Also late in 2019, I started mentoring at Galvanize in Seattle as one of their startup mentors. I’ve engaged with two startups, helping review the cloud infrastructure and provide technical guidance as they scale. Earlier in 2019, I helped out in PuPPy with the interview mentoring as well. Sharing my experience and helping out the broader community has been very fulfilling. I’m going to continue those mentoring avenues. Also, I am looking to mentor one or two individuals outside of work.
  3. Learning.  I enjoy picking up new technologies and diving into them. I’m looking forward to working on some tutorials as blog content, and also learn some new areas in technology this year. Some areas may include data pipelines, machine learning, VR or AR, and service meshes.
  4. Photography.  Several years ago, I enjoyed various types of photography. While I don’t currently have any more professional gear, I do want to spend some more time with photography. I hope that by the later part of the year to jump into some serious photography.
  5. Music, particularly Trance.  I’ve been into electronic music for as long as I can remember. This past year I became re-energized. Expect to see a lot more music, club nights, festivals, and concerts throughout the year.

I feel highly energized going into 2020!