Allinclusive Design

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Inclusion in the digital world

On this platform I share the principles to make digital products more inclusive for people who experience stress and axiety as a result of trauma. The principles are based on findings from the field of trauma informed physical spaces and my empiric observations during helping refugees.

Trauma informed design promotes safety, healing, and wellbeing by integrating the principles of trauma informed care into the design and construction of the spaces where care takes place.

My goal was to transform these findings and formulate the principles for the digital world, so that digital products contribute to healing and foster and promote empowerment.

illustration for trauma-informed design with plaster

While accessibility is a big topic in design, it is often understood in terms of insuring the physical accessibility or removing the existing barriers to make the products available to the wide range of users. My goal was to research the ways to make digital products more accessible to people who experience stress and anxiety as a result of trauma. The research showed that there is way more studies and sources in the domain of architecture and interior design then from the field of human-computer interaction. This platform is intended to share experience, gather knowledge and provide practical examples in trauma-informed design in the digital world.

Natural and cool colors

Colors communicate certain mood and affect emotions of users. Longer-wavelength colors like red are experienced as arousing, and shorter-wavelength colors like green are experienced as calming. Light, cool and less saturated colors can be used to create a calming, safe and open feeling. Deeply hued warm colors may arouse negative emotions. Also cinsider culture-specific associations.

An important aspect about color choice is the contrast between the elements. There APCA algorithm can be used to check this aspect. APCA takes into account various aspects of contrast & color perception, such as spatial frequency, simultaneous contrast, and elements of light & dark adaptation.

Calculate APCA color contrast

Power and control

The usage of digital products can provoke an overwhelming sense of powerlessness, especially users experiencing stress and anxiety. The usage of dark patterns in design (techniques to manipulate users into making actions against their will) facilitates the feeling of having no control.

One of these techniques contributing to anxiety is the sence of fake urgency Timeouts, time counters or an artificial sence of scarcity and urgency for performing actions can cause a lot of unease and axiety. The movement for "calm technology" is advocating for respect to the user's attention. Some types of deceptive pattern are already illegal.

Read about dark patterns

Font legibility

Please consider legibility as the main factor while choosing typefaces. Legibility and clarity is definetely more important then personality or creativity.

There are a lot of studies about using special fonts designed for people with dyslexia. The conclusion should be made that custom fonts themselves are considered not helpful. Still, many effort were made to create a typeface focusing on letterform distinction to increase character recognition for low-vision users.

Althouth a legible font contributes to comprehension, other typograhic means such as layout, balance, hierarchy and structure are considered to contribute to reading speed or accuracy more.

Legible font and study

Empowering messages

One of the factors causing axiety is fear of making mistakes or stress after making a mistake. Use empowering and positive language. Show your users that you belive that they are able to succed in using your product. It is important to set expectations and be transparent about the function of your product from the beginning and provide indication of progress. Explain why certain data is collected and only request information you absolutely need to reduce anxiety about having to reveal too much.

Special care should be taken while writing error messages. Prepare for both system failure and human error, and respond with the same level of clarity. In case of a human error, provide clear instructions for the options and next steps.

Error message guidelines

Accessible media files

Put the user in control when you use animation, audio or video. Autoplay videos and audios prevent users from making a conscious choice. A better alternative is to require an explicit action to put users in control and prevent harmful binge watching. Users may feel very unease or distracted when experiencing sudden sound or movement. Too quick motion can trigger vestibular (inner ear) disorders like dizziness, nausea and headaches.

A great way to make your media files more accessible is to create captions for video. Closed captions are better for everybody and make video and audio files more accessible for wider audience. Having multiple chanels for information transfer enhances accessability.

Use accessible players

Text readbility

Please don't overload yout texts with complex language or specific technical or scientific terms. Users may have difficultues understanding complex wordings, especially not in their first language. Formulate your content as if it would be a natural conversation with your users and ask yourself what would be appropriate.

It is important to treat the text as an important part of your interface. The text should be as understandable and accessible as possible. There are multiple readybility algorithms and scores to asses the text, but it should not serve as a self-target. It is more important to develop a feeling for your target audience and appropriate tone and voice to use.

Check readability


The unpredictable behaviour of websites and apps is another source of anxiety. Use familiar conventions and apply them consistently. Recongnizable patterns help users navigate through the digital world, help to learn the digital platform and promote safety.

Extrenal consistency is important to meet user's expectations and building on what users already know. Intenal consistecy is important to assure smooth and efficient usage as well as visual pleasing language. The applied consistency lets the users know exactly what to expect and how to interact with the interface.

Discover design patterns