August 7, 2017

Big design

When a company as large as Tesco creates digital products and services, they’re used by hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. As a brand we’re unashamedly mass market and aim to meet the needs and support the lives of the whole country. Designing for such a broad range of customers creates a fairly unique set of constraints and considerations on our product design teams including

  • scalability
  • usability
  • desirability
  • inclusivity.

I’ll leave the first three points for another day and focus instead on that last one.


This is a huge opportunity for large brands like Tesco. Moving from a technical mindset of meeting a set of accessibility criteria/checkpoints towards identifying and designing open, inclusive products that improve lives and benefit everyone.

Our design language and accessibility

I’m often asked whether Tesco’s digital design language is accessible, or ensures that a product built to the standard specification will be accessible. While the building blocks of user interface elements in the design language are designed to be accessible and follow industry best practice, it’s down to the consuming product design teams to put these blocks together in ways that create accessible, inclusive products. The simple fact is that it’s rarely possible to get accessibility for free - it has to be a explicit objective for the product team.

A better approach to inclusivity

A better way to approach this is to step back from the accessibility question and think more about the overall inclusivity of their product. Again, as a brand which is at some point part of the lives of most of the people in this country, it’s on us to make sure we’re ensuring that the products we create work brilliantly for the largest possible number of people.

One of the simplest things we can do here is to make sure our own biases don’t drive the design of the products we create: it’s very easy to use ourselves as a stand-in for our customers (think of those personas who are tech-savvy, time-poor, foodies) but when we do so, we often exclude whole groups of people who use the same technology but in very different ways to us, and often in ways that we haven’t accommodated in the design of our products.

When we design inclusively, we’re not designing a one-size-fits-all solution or creating a compromised lowest common denominator product. Designing inclusively means creating products that work for the diversity of ways people interact with them and the context they’re using them in.

For example, when we create effective products for people with a permanent disability such as having one arm, it benefits people with a temporary wrist injury or someone carrying a child. It was exactly this situation that we uncovered when we were working on a mobile version of our Scan as you Shop product: what we found was that customers carrying baskets are effectively situationally disabled and need a mobile app that’s optimised toward single handed use.

Approaching product development from this perspective opens up huge value-creation opportunities for not just existing customers, but whole new audiences too.

Design systems design language design strategy inclusivity

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