Everyone building products has the responsibility to prioritize inclusion. Writing the language inside products is an extremely powerful way to do so.
Language is an extremely powerful way to promote inclusivity. As folks who make products for other people, we like to believe that we are intimately connected with each and every person using what we build. But our thoughts and actions are inherently prejudiced because we bring the biases of our societies to work with us. By continuing to build products centered on one kind of person deemed “typical” or “standard,” we fail to explicitly ensure that our products include as many people as possible.
When people don’t see themselves represented in a product, they feel like it isn’t for them and may miss out on something that could improve their lives. Research consistently shows that diverse, more inclusive companies deliver more innovation, better financial results, and improved user experiences.
We all have the responsibility to make inclusivity a top priority. Not having inclusivity as a priority when building products has shown to negatively impact the following, and more:
Accessibility as a discipline falls under the umbrella of inclusivity. Inclusive UX writing must address how people with disabilities access information, but not in a vacuum; it’s necessary to also think about how designers and developers build products to function with assistive technology. Inclusive UX writing is accessible, but the reverse isn’t always true.
UX content includes:
No matter what kind of UX content it is, it should be descriptive and meaningful. Here are some examples of why certain words and phrases are preferred, and why some should be avoided:
|People||Customers||Be inclusive of current and potential users of products — not just the paying ones. If the context is dependent on a payment or subscription, “customers” is acceptable.|
|You (when speaking to your audience about themselves)||Users (when speaking to your audience about themselves)||Be inclusive of the person who’s reading. If the context is dependent on a role (e.g., an admin managing permissions), “user” is acceptable.|
|Adobe Dimension helps you create in 3D.||Adobe Dimension is for graphic designers looking to get a 3D edge.||Be inclusive of more reasons to use a given product.|
|View, Show, Go to all||See all||Be descriptive. Not everyone is “seeing,” and the “do” options (“View,” “Show,” “Go to all”) have more nuance in meaning.|
|Play video||Watch video||Be descriptive. Not everyone is “watching” the video.|
|Last updated: 2 days ago||Updated • 2d ago||Be meaningful. Symbols and abbreviations, when read aloud by a screen reader, can obscure the message if you don’t take additional steps to ensure they read correctly.|
|Update your information (step 1 of 3)||Confirm your information||Be meaningful. Guide people in a stepped flow and tell them specifically what to do. Set accurate expectations for how long a task will take.|
There are a number of additional pages about language and inclusivity that make up this guide:
This is a list of topic areas to think about when creating inclusive content. It’s just a start, and will evolve as often as necessary. If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback about this resource, email us.
The following people and organizations provided information and inspiration in the creation of this guide:
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
Material Design Accessibility: Writing
18F Accessibility Guide
National Center on Disability and Journalism (NCDJ)
Conscious Style Guide
City of Oakland Style Guide