Inclusive Design for Products and Services

The products and services outcome rules require firms to ensure that all products and services meet the needs, characteristics, and objectives of customers in the identified target market, including customers with protected characteristics or characteristics of vulnerability. Implementing inclusive design practices across products and services may be an effective way for firms to ensure they truly meet the demands and needs of all those within the target market.

The ‘Inclusive Design in Essential Services’ guide published by the Money Advice Trust and Fair by Design, summarises that the inclusive design approach:

  • Helps us design products and services that can be accessed by everyone
  • Starts with user who have additional needs, not from an imagined ‘average user’
  • Asks us to design adaptations for certain users if one solution cannot fit all
  • Involves close consultation and feedback from ‘experts by experience’ throughout the design process

As suggested, instead of making adaptations once the products or services has been established, inclusive design works by acknowledging the diversity of consumer circumstances from the start of the design process and building services around customers who may have additional/different needs. Designing products and services this way will not only ensure ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ needs are met but will often result in better functionality and outcomes for all users.

After all, any one of us may, at some point in our lives, go through periods of vulnerability and be at a disadvantage, e.g., through redundancy, mental or physical health issues, bereavement. Often, products and services not designed to account for those disadvantages can lead to harm, resulting in increased vulnerability and leaving individuals in a vicious cycle.

Therefore, firms should not be designing for ‘vulnerable people’ but rather, they need to ask what people in these circumstances are vulnerable to and why. They could also look at defining what good and bad outcomes might look like for these groups of customers, to assess what measure need to be taken to prevent harm and enable them to make informed decisions.

These questions can be answered by working closely with experts, such as researchers or charities. Firms should also speak to people who have experienced or are experiencing these disadvantages first-hand, throughout design and development. Although, it is necessary to keep in mind that ‘experts by experience’ are not designers and may have different experiences. Firms should take influence and use this research to understand what can be implemented to minimise wider difficulties; also acknowledging where one solution is not the answer and multiple options may be necessary to meet the demand and needs of all.

Even though smaller firms may feel this to be a costly and time-consuming exercise, there are still steps everyone can take to work towards implementing more inclusive design. This may involve a review of existing processes – some of these may already be more inclusive focussed than you realise – and identifying opportunities where the design could be adapted.

Raising awareness within your firm is also another way to improve inclusivity of product design. Reviewing the range of vulnerable circumstances experienced by your target market can ensure staff are aware of the customer’s perspective of a product or service which can then be used to adapt approaches going forward.

RWA has launched a Consumer Duty gap analysis to help firms implement the new rules and guidance. If you would like more information about this or require any assistance in relation to the new Consumer Duty, please contact your Compliance Consultant. Alternatively, get in touch via email at or call 01604 709509.

About the author

Chloe joined us in 2020, having graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication from the University of South Wales. 

Chloe started with the team working as a Design and Content Assistant, creating engaging e-learning materials and marketing content, before moving into her current role. Currently, she works across all elements of the client experience and utilises her knowledge of the Development Zone platform, to ensure users can get the most out of their e-learning journey.

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