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Annie Jean-Baptiste on How to Build More Inclusive Products

Round Editorial

Annie Jean-Baptiste, Author and Director of Product Inclusion & Equity at Google, and Founder of Equity Army, shares how to build more inclusive products.

“At the end of the day, all users want to be seen.” Annie Jean-Baptiste uses this mantra to guide her work as the Director of Product Inclusion and Equity at Google and Founder of Equity Army.

Annie Jean-Baptiste works to ensure historically marginalized users feel validated throughout the product design process and advocates that when products are designed to be inclusive we achieve solutions that better benefit everyone. She spoke to the Round community about how organizations and teams can build more inclusive products. Here are three of her recommendations.

1. Identify the missing voices

Identifying the target audience is an important step in the product development process, but looking at the multiple dimensions of diversity of the audience is an important way to gain additional audience members who may have been overlooked. Use the concept of intersectionality, coined by Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw, to expand the definition of the audience. “The example I use is: I’m a black woman who’s also left-handed. I’m not black on Monday, left handed on Tuesday, a woman on Wednesday. I’m all of those things all of the time and it affects how I move through the world, how the world views me, and it definitely affects how I interact with products or services.” If a product’s target market is women who live in cities, there are also women of all ages who live in cities, women of all different heights, and the combinations are endless. Going through this exercise and using the question “who else?” as a framework will help product leaders identify the individuals being left out.

2. Bake inclusion into the product design process

With limited resources, it’s important to focus on the steps in the product design process that have a disproportionately positive impact on the outcome. There are four key areas in the product development process: ideation, user research and design, user testing, and marketing. Teams that are the most successful focus on building inclusion into their process in at least two of these areas. If testing a product with people in cities, consider testing a product with individuals in rural areas as well. If one’s product is primarily tested with men, try testing it also with women to get well-rounded feedback. Jean-Baptiste believes it’s crucial for product leaders to ask the question “how can we bring those who most have been excluded or who are furthest from the kind of experience of those creating the products into that process and lifecycle?” It’s not reinventing the wheel, but rather it’s being intentional about inclusion in the different steps of the product design process that one already does.

3. Find the metrics that matter

The famous management consultant Peter Drucker famously said, “If you don’t measure something, you can’t manage it”. Jean-Baptiste urges product leaders to be deliberate about the metrics they use to evaluate how inclusive their products actually are. When using user-focused metrics such as CSAT, churn rate, or active users, be rigorous about how the data is analyzed. If a CSAT score is 85%, think about what happened to the other 15%? “What can happen with historically marginalized groups is because you’re looking at the aggregate, you’re actually not getting the kind of insights that may allow you to build something that connects with another demographic because you’re not parsing it in the right way.” Focus on one to three things to evaluate and measure. Regardless of what metrics an individual, team, or organization uses, Jean-Baptise believes the most important thing is accountability for the goals set.

Jean-Baptiste provides more insights into identifying the right goals to measure in her book Building For Everyone.

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