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Better for All: Developing and Designing for Diversity

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We all come from different backgrounds with different experiences that craft our view of the world. Bringing together people with different knowledge, skills and perspectives is an asset when designing and developing products for your end users who also have many varied points of view.

In our series Better for All, we'll explore how designers and developers can take a more inclusive approach that promotes diversity and builds better experiences. In the first part of our series, we're looking at how language influences perspectives. Here are some ways you can start creating an inclusive shared language.

Better Tech Terminology

In 2018, developers of the widely used Python programming language removed the terminology Master/Slave from their code for invoking white superiority and insensitivity to the experiences of racial minorities. Similarly, Github changed the default branch on their site from master to main, and many open-source projects are adopting this change. Replacing harmful and egregious vocabulary with terms like 'Primary/Secondary' is a step in the right direction to addressing the underlying bias in tech. When you adopt better language, it changes the way you present your products to others.

As you work towards promoting a diverse and inclusive environment, it's essential to recognize that some words and terms we've become used to need to be replaced. Here are some common terms you can adapt for more inclusive language:

  • Replace Master or Slave hard drives with Primary or Secondary hard drives
  • Replace Whitelist with Allowlist and Whitespace with Negative space
  • Replace Blacklist with Blocklist or Denylist
  • Replace Man hours with Person hours, Developer hours, or Effort
  • Replace Backlog grooming with Backlog refinement
  • Replace Dummy variable with Placeholder variable

Better Representation in Forms

Another place where incorporating an inclusive language approach is important is intake forms. Especially since they're a tool often used to collect personal information, using the right language and considering privacy is important.

When developing forms, always ask yourself first if that information is necessary and not invasive. Think about why you are collecting data about ethnicity, gender or sex, because if you don't need it, you can avoid asking for it. If you do need to collect this information, be specific about the information you need and use inclusive language and options for various types of identities (gender, ethnicities).

Throughout your form, make sure to replace sex-specific language with gender-inclusive language (parent/guardian, etc.), and include "Not applicable" as a response option for those who feel the question may not apply. Include non-binary genders and allow people to indicate their personal pronouns. Finally, skip honorifics (Dr., Mx., etc.), which traditionally are not inclusive.

Better Shared Language

Intentionally and consistently using inclusive language is key to developing a more diverse and inclusive culture in the larger tech industry. Promoting a shared language ensures better communication, makes everyone feel valued and improves collaboration.

Considering the large gender gap in tech -- only 32% of tech roles were held by women in 2018 – adjusting everyday language to be more gender-inclusive is a step towards closing that gap. For example, you can address groups of people as "everyone" instead of "ladies and gentlemen", so that no one is left out.

With 15% of the world's population living with some form of disability, which isn't always visible, being considerate about language is a way of expressing understanding and empathy. Make sure to use people-first language and avoid negative phrases when referring to a disability. Instead use more neutral phrases such as "lives with" or "who has". For example, "a person living with a disability" is a better term to use instead of "a disabled man." People-first language demonstrates that the individual is more important, rather than the descriptor.

The words we use play a big part in shaping the kind of world we want to live in. Replacing harmful language with more inclusive language is an important step towards building a world where we all feel welcome.

We hope you find our Better for All series helpful in shaping a more diverse and inclusive space. Stay tuned for more blog posts in our series on diverse design and improving accessibility to create an experience that's better for all.

Follow us on Twitter at @samsung_dev for more tips on designing and developing for Samsung.

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