What is universal design? Learning how to apply this approach to digital designs

What is universal design

Universal Design

A design technique known as universal design guarantees that your product, environment, communication, or service works for everyone. It’s impossible to target certain people when your design caters to everyone’s demands. Using accessible and understandable products, you adopt a liberated approach to making their lives easier. The use of universal design principles benefits people from all walks of life. It equalizes the playing field by making physical and digital designs available to a wide range of people of various ages, skills, and nations. supporting social equality and inclusion while also broadening your target market helps your firm go in a more ethical direction and makes you more money and more famous. For all its benefits, Designviva suggests that universal design is a smart choice for your next design project or your company’s next R&D plan.

Now, Designviva will give you a deep insight into the history of universal designs.

Ronald Mace was the director of NC State University’s Center for Accessible Housing. As a wheelchair user, he advocated for universal design while it was still in its infancy. Hence, the title “Father of Universal Design” was bestowed upon him. Mace emphasized the need of making environmental design a global concept to simplify the lives of many people. He was well-aware of the problems with the current design. Making building entrances without steps is an example of how universal design in architecture has been applied. Ramps, which were accessible to everyone, replaced the need for stair use.

Designing for all people is a moral activity. It’s highly conceived and innovative, and it identifies users by setting them to “all.” Because it isn’t targeted at anybody it helps standardize design. It broadens the definition of “normal” to guarantee that all users are treated equally. The idea of universal design originated in architecture and has now spread to other sectors including education, product design, and human-centered design processes. A complete approach to value creation is provided by universal design.

Here Designviva distinguishes universal design from other design approaches

The concept and philosophy of universal design sometimes overlap with other design approaches such as barrier-free or accessible design and inclusive design; therefore, they should be treated with caution. Even though designers frequently create solutions that integrate all three, it’s important to know how they relate to putting them to good use and put them into practice.

Universal and barrier-free design

The goal of barrier-free design, also known as accessible design, is to remove all impediments that stand between a product’s consumers and their usage of it. This kind of design is used to develop user interfaces that are intuitive and approachable. Barrier-free design, in contrast to universal design, isn’t meant to be accessible to everybody. Design that is accessible addresses those who have problems with current systems and offers customized solutions to discover a workaround or an alternative.

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Inclusive vs universal design

According to Designviva, the use of inclusive design guarantees that the completed product is accessible to a wide range of people. There are instances when it offers many variations on a single design or a product with specific add-ons for specific skills. With universal design, your product or service may be enjoyed by people of all abilities equally. Where universal design differs is that it’s not about making a design with several versions for different abilities, it’s about making one design that works for everyone.

The Universal Design Seven Principles

In the 1990s, specialists at NC State University’s Center for Universal Design distilled these universal design pillars into seven universal design principles. The Designviva has enlisted the following principles which serve as a benchmark for evaluating the environmental impact of various products and services.

Fairness in usage

For persons of different skills, the design can be made to be the same for everyone or to have several versions based on ability.

Adaptability while being used

Precision in design respects and accommodates a wide range of user preferences and skills. Because Designviva says that it responds to the user’s speed and offers several ways to utilize it, it’s quite flexible.

Using it is simple and intuitive.

If you have basic computer skills and understanding, Designviva assures you that you may utilize this design without any problems. Simple, consistent, and intuitive design is critical when doing this; minor details like the use of basic language devoid of technical jargon are excellent for making designs accessible to a broader audience.

Information that can be seen or felt

Regardless of the user’s sensory capacity or external environmental variables like lighting, weather, or other conditions, the design successfully communicates the information required by the user. Multiple ways of presenting data and visual hierarchy, as well as enhanced readability of information, can all help.

The ability to accept failure

Safety elements such as warnings and fail-safe interactions should be incorporated into designs to reduce the likelihood of harmful or unexpected outcomes. This also reduces the likelihood of accidents and errors having negative outcomes.

Low level of physical exertion

The design allows the user to easily retain a neutral body position, eliminate repeated motions, and restrict heavy operational force and physical exertion.

Dimensions of the approach and usage area

With this design, every user will have enough space and room to move around without feeling cramped no matter what their height, weight, posture, or mobility may be. Provide information on your posture when using the product. Ergonomics are taken into consideration throughout the design, with size differences and enough room for assistance equipment and support all being taken into consideration. Using Gestalt concepts and intelligible typography, ergonomics may apply to digital designs.

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Now, Designviva would take you through the process of Universal design.

The following are examples of design methods that are beneficial to universal design initiatives:

A method in which the essential problems of the user are comprehended and worked on to develop a solution is known as human-centered design. Participatory design is a method that involves all the project’s constituents in the design process.

Designviva has curated a process for universal design:

Locating the majority of possibilities

In some cases, the phrase “all users” might be a bit much to take in. Be inclusive and include people of all abilities when defining your target audience and creating personalities so that your audience may be more diverse. 

Empathizing with and seeing patterns and behaviors

Think about the issues that everyone in the region you’re researching must deal with. It’s critical to empathize, innovate, and meet changing requirements as you go through the process of identifying your pain points. This procedure may entail keeping track of how users live and interact, as well as their requirements, wishes, fulfillment, complaints, and levels of satisfaction.

Generating concepts and making suggestions for improvements

Think about the principles of universal design while coming up with new ideas. They should respect variety, be risk-free, and have seamless functioning. The solutions you come up with must be workable, efficient, and provide your users a chance. Later, you may specify a budget and work out the specifics of how your project will be managed.

Carrying out user testing and reiterating the solution

You must double-check your solutions before implementing them, just as with anything else. To see if this is the case, ask customers to participate in focus groups to identify any potential problems. Avoid social stigmas such as stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination when administering these exams. For example, it’s not always true that old people can’t utilize technology.


It’s critical to use universal design principles in the present day. We all need more inclusive places and designs that empower people and provide them with the same opportunities as everyone else, so that they may make the most of designs without feeling restricted by anything.


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