Tech’s Diversity Problem Isn’t Only in the Hiring Numbers

Who we assume our users are, and how we represent that in our visuals, affects who those users turn out to be. We want those users to be diverse, so we created, where you can find images representative of a diverse population.

This set of stock avatars is advertised as a set of “diverse” users. Seems to be lacking a little diversity….

This morning, I launched It’s a pretty simple creation — just a set of user images for me to use in my mockups. But for me, it’s the tipping point of hours spent refreshing the photos filled in by Sketch content generator plugins or clicking through Google image search results and other UI sites to find people that I feel represent real sets of users. Real sets of users, from my perspective, are diverse sets of users — ones from varying age, racial, and gender groups. I see that in the real world. I expect that of my users. Yet, somehow, all my sources for filling in content only want to supply me with 25–35 year old white dudes — which is great if you’re in the game of creating products exclusively for 25–35 year old white dudes, but if you’re not, it’s really really bad.

It all starts as an internal issue

Recently in design, the idea of empathy is getting a lot of hype. Empathy is, by definition, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. If we’re making products for other people, it makes sense that we need to understand how they feel to do so effectively. The design process involves a long stage of empathy before going to the mockup playing field. Mockups are how we conceptualize our product. It’s how we imagine it as a full grown adult out in the world. But when the two come together — can we say we’re really empathizing when we don’t even visually include part of the population? We can’t even see them, literally, being a part of our product — so how likely is it that we’re realizing their thoughts, beliefs, and motivations in using our product? Can we imagine how our product fits into their day, better yet — can we even imagine their day, if we can’t imagine their face?

Social Feeds
Some new UI work we are putting together at UI8. Full set coming

Searching social feeds on Dribbble brings up a lot of beautiful images but not a lot of diverse, beautiful people.

If we can’t see these users using our product, how can they?

This is where our little internal problem starts rippling out into the real world. We post these mockups on our exquisitely designed landing pages to start acquiring users. We place them in the walk-throughs they see when they download the app. But can they see themselves? If a user can’t see someone they relate to using the app, they’re going to have a hard time imagining themselves using it. For example, if I see an app and all the example user conversations are between 25–35 year old white dudes, I’m going to assume it’s an app for 25–35 year old white dudes and go on with my day.

Look at all those different types of people in one of Facebook Moment’s example images on the Google Play Store. I could be one of those! My friends could be one of those!

Author: Renée Padgham

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