Diversity, equity and inclusion efforts have always been at the heart of everything Key Lime Interactive does. Founded by a Hispanic woman and continually engaging a wide variety of employees from all different kinds of backgrounds, KLI has prioritized diversity and inclusion on the inside. Then during 2020, the world faced the beginning of a global pandemic and at the same time was being thrust into a civil rights movement. It was during this time that KLI began to think critically about what we could do, as researchers and as people who care, to ensure that the work that we produced as a company remained as diverse and inclusive as we were. Inclusivity in user experience research is a critical but often overlooked piece of the research process. As researchers, we are tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the research we conduct is holistic and encompassing of all users, and we follow a similar Hippocratic Oath of “doing no harm (digitally or otherwise)”. Therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that the research we conduct is as inclusive and representative as possible. Inclusion in research is a critical piece of being able to design experiences that are accessible, inviting and safe for every user.
During our conversations, we realized that as researchers who shape digital and holistic experiences - we decide who participates in the study, whose voices are included, and which ones are excluded. We determine who these findings, products, and experiences chose to include, and who to exclude from the research process, from the insights, and more importantly, from the actionable changes we put forward. Moreover, we have seen the real world consequences of not being inclusive in research, such as when we see racial biases impact the design of facial recognition technology and its likelihood to misidentify the faces of women, as well as people of color. Consequences like this not only impact the direct user experience, but also have the resounding consequence of perpetuating these biases and stereotypes in our digital spaces. And therefore, it is our responsibility to ensure that we are conducting inclusive research to ensure that experiences are designed with every user and their unique experiences in mind.
Thus, the Inclusivity Index™ was born. The Inclusivity Index was developed by our team to ensure that research projects and efforts were conducted in as inclusive a way as possible. Starting with the recruitment process, the Inclusivity Index is a 3-point index (at-index, over-index, or under-index) intended to highlight areas of under-representation for traditionally marginalized groups in society and combat the inherent biases that can make their way into the research and design process. Inherent biases often impact product design by marginalizing groups that are often not considered during product inception or included in the research process. It is our duty as researchers to highlight these gaps in product design. The Inclusivity Index aims to shed light on any such biases or groups that may have been overlooked during product development.
The Inclusivity Index™ covers at least five (5) attributes, with three of those attributes being fixed and a minimum of two variables that are able to be customized to meet the specific needs of a research project. These three fixed attributes have been selected based on historical under representation which can lead to the presence of systemic biases and discrimination in the design process. The two custom attributes are in place so that researchers using the Inclusivity Index can include attributes that are applicable to their project. The result is an “Index” that is provided in the final deliverable, outlining the fixed and variable attributes, the index rating and notable callouts, and future recommendations.
While this is something that has been designed and put into practice at Key Lime Interactive, it does not mean our work here is complete. We are continually examining and improving the Inclusivity Index based on our learnings. We recognize that we may never arrive at the “perfect” Inclusivity Index™ and truly, we are not aiming to. The goal of the Inclusivity Index™ is not only to promote more inclusive research, but also to recognize that the conversation surrounding diversity equity and inclusion is an ongoing one. Most importantly at Key Lime Interactive, we believe that diversity in perspective yields better results and the Inclusivity Index™ is a step towards deliberately paying attention to or being aware of how poorly or well we are doing in this regard. The goal of the Inclusivity Index is to encourage more inclusive research practices within KLI and other research agencies - like creating a comprehensive methodology and prioritizing recruitment diversity.