I read a comment on social media the other day by design justice leader Sasha Costanza-Chock about how personas could potentially solidify bias within UX design and how UX professionals should mitigate bias when developing personas by creating less narrowly defined archetypes of users.
UX practitioners use motivations, behaviors, and key background information to develop their personas which naturally defaults to the majority of the sample demographics, which is rooted in the user research phase, where participants are recruited for surveys, interviews, and other methods to glean insights.
Research has shown that lack of recruitment from diverse and representative populations may result in biased sampling and skew survey results. When applied to UX research, this can affect the types of products we design for, where segments of a given population do not see themselves reflected in the products that are created.
So, what are some ways to reduce bias in the research to design process?
Diversify User Recruitment Sources
Diversify recruitment sources by demographic factors (socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, geography). Think about the common areas and methods that you normally use to recruit and think about which populations you are missing and why. If budget allows, provide an incentive for the participant’s time. Sometimes, even providing first access or a demo of your designs to participants is enough incentive, as it will make them feel like they made a significant contribution to the end goal.
Check Your Biases
During the assumption and idea generation phase of your research, think about what biases you have about the problem you are designing for. It might be helpful to write all of your assumptions and create an affinity map in order to find ways to create checks on those biases during the research and design phases.
Diversify Your Talent Pool
We all benefit from learning from people from all walks of life. Increasing diversity within your UX practice will bring fresh and unique perspectives that will enhance your design process. Involving practitioners with different backgrounds in daily research and design processes allows for thoughtful consideration and increases the accessibility of your designs.