Lens: Type: Complex Level

The measure of obstacles that prevent people from accessing a product, service, or system.

When we say a design outcome is not accessible, we are saying it is not available to users. Accessibility is a range instead of an all-or-nothing aspect. However, in some cases, design decisions can lead to outcomes that prevent all use for some people. Sometimes it’s better for a design to inaccessible, such as rifles in a gun cabinet or the button that launches missiles on a warship. But more often than not, accessibility is a good thing. Physical accessibility is the first kind that comes to mind, such as large typography on an app screen so older adults can read it. But ideological accessibility is equally important, such as imagery and words in an ad campaign, including people of many races and ethnic backgrounds. Experiences can’t happen (or can’t happen as intended) if the design is inaccessible.

Researching Accessibility

Researching accessibility focuses designers on the interaction between people and design. It reveals to what degree a design outcome limits or facilitates use. This process involves examining a design’s features as well as the people who will use the design outcome.

Questions to Ask About Accessibility

  • What ability levels are required to interact with the product/service/system?
  • In what ways is this designed so it limits people’s use?
  • What about the design enables easy usage?

Look for These When Researching Accessibility

  • Physical dimensions of the design that could limit usability.
  • Language on the design that enables usage by people with specific reading levels or language skills.
  • Color choices that could cause issues for people with color blindness.


References and sources that support the inclusion of this Aspects of Experiences for Design component.


Davis, M. (2012). Graphic Design Theory. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Garrett, J. J. (2011). The elements of user experience: user-centered design for the Web and beyond. (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Krug, S. (2006). Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability. (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Norman, D. (2008). HCD harmful? A Clarification. Retrieved from

Norman, D. A. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things (Revised and expanded edition ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Norman, D. A., & Stappers, P. J. (2015). DesignX: Complex Sociotechnical Systems. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 1(2), 83-106.

Pater, R. (2016). The politics of design : a (not so) global manual for visual communication. BIS Publishers.

Sanders, E. B.-N. (1992). Converging perspectives: product development research for the 1990s. Design Management Journal, 3(4), 49-54.

Sanders, L., & Stappers, P. J. (2014). From Designing to Co-Designing to Collective Dreaming: Three Slices in Time. Interactions, 21(6), 24-33.