The theme for our second Tech for Good meetup in Bath on Tuesday 18th July was Design for all – technology for everyone, accessibility & user experience.  A topic we are particularly passionate about because we believe that through designing technology which is accessible for everyone, you can ensure greater participation, opportunity and impact.

For those who came along thank you for coming and supporting a growing community, and we hope you had an enjoyable evening!  If you missed out here’s a list of our inspiring speakers:

We asked our speakers to focus on taking a people first approach to design and how this process can ensure accessible, affordable and useable technology.  What came through strongly was a set of guiding principles and techniques which all of our speakers touched on in one way or another, we’ve summarised these below.

Actively listen to your users

Listening is a powerful force for change.  This was the core message from Giles, from CX Partners.  Really and truly thinking about how and why we need to listen to people leads to more enriching interactions and enables empathy.  The ability to see the world from their point of view allows for more creative problem solving and gets teams working cohesively towards finding a fix or collaboratively designing a solution.  As Hazel, Designability, explained giving people the space to think during conversations is key.  You’ll often find you hear a gem of information after a silence or when it feels like you are going off on a tangent.

Let go of assumptions

It’s important to acknowledge that our own experiences and backgrounds influence the way we see the world and shape our assumptions.  Never assume you know how a person is feeling or thinking about a specific situation or piece of technology.  Instead ask them open questions which allow them to fully articulate their thoughts and ideas from their perspective.  In this way you’ll discover, as Martha from Knowle West Media Centre mentioned, the issues that people really care about.  Then your design and approach will start to meet the real user need, rather than the needs you perceive.

Create an enabling environment to engage users

Martha introduced us to The Dampbusters Project which uses really simple technology, in the shape of a friendly frog, to collect housing damp data.  One of the key factors to the success of this approach has been the ability to bring multiple disciplines together to collectively, and creatively problem solve.  To have technologists in the same room as creatives, and those who have very little or no experience in design and technology.  Facilitating  interaction between these groups of people means you need to think about the way in which you engage your users as well as the space in which you engage them.  This was a point echoed by Graham Rees-Evans from The Shaw Trust who highlighted the importance of ensuring your approach puts them at ease, so that you can spend your time focusing on them and what they have to say, rather than fixing your surrounding environment.  Hazel also was clear to promote the need to keep your language simple, avoid jargon and build trust with your users.

Strive to be accessible, include everyone

For an approach which seeks to solve one of the most complex of challenges look no further than Designability and the work they are doing to support dementia patients and the carers.for which they have been  recently recognised with the ‘Good’ award at the recent SPARKies awards.  There was an inspiring message from Helen, if Designability can tackle this problem it is proof that you really can make technology accessible for all.  With a focus on being truly intuitive Designability are breaking norms around technology design in an exciting way.  

Making your technology accessible can be very simple.  Graham encouraged us to think about how we can take our technology and design approaches one step further towards being fully accessible.  In the long-run this could expand your reach and scope for innovation for relatively little effort and cost.

Use participatory design techniques

Finally, a running theme throughout the night was co-creation and participatory design.  This was brought to life by Caroline Kuhn who is currently studying for a Ph.D at Bath Spa University around informal digital learning spaces .  Caroline has identified a widespread assumption that young people are technology literate.  his is far from reality and Caroline has been studying student behaviours and feelings around technology by engaging them through participatory design techniques.  This has enabled deeper understanding of barriers and challenges for this age group.  Our Tech for Good group did a quick mapping exercise inspired by Dave White and Donna Lanclos about our interactions online which was exceptionally powerful in identifying how vastly different our online behaviours are.  Watch this short video for a quick taster of how it went.