By Guest Writer: Stefan Palios

Kat Holmes has spent her entire career focusing on user experience (UX) design, the practice of building products in the best possible way for users to get value from it. But it wasn’t until her time at Microsoft that she realized the business value of inclusive design. Now, as a director of UX design at Google, Holmes is pushing inclusive design to new limits. But getting to new limits, whether just starting out or running a global company, requires asking the right questions.

In this series, #movethedial interviews speakers for its upcoming 2019 Global Summit to learn how these dynamic leaders go “ALL IN” on inclusion. Read on for more about how Kat Holmes thinks about inclusion.


Inclusive design means better products for everyone

When Holmes was at Microsoft, she was tasked with working on a personal digital assistant, the technology that would eventually become Microsoft Cortana. Facing the daunting challenge of developing a voice-powered digital assistant, Holmes realized that voice-powered technology was not brand new to the world. Quite the opposite, in fact. 

“It became clear we had a lot to learn from people who had been using voice and speech-based technologies to interact with computers for decades,” said Holmes. “There are many kinds of human expertise that are missing from most design processes.”

Holmes also learned more about how a digital assistant should work and interact with people by talking to actual human assistants, adding a further layer of depth to the product’s design process. 

When it comes to developing personal assistants for business people, interviewing people that aren’t in your target market flies in the face of some conventional customer-first product development ethos. However, including a range of voices and perspectives ended up with a more nuanced, successful product. 

Now, Holmes takes that learning and recommends it to anyone wanting to build better products. 

“Start asking questions about whose voices are missing from the design process,” said Holmes. “Who might be excluded from a design solution? Which exclusion experts might provide the most insights?”


Inclusive design is a daily practice

Now that Holmes is at Google, her role scope has expanded significantly. With Google’s lofty ambition to organize the world’s information, Holmes is in charge of making sure the information is presented in a way that works for all people. 

The best part, though, is that inclusive design can kickstart an organization-wide diversity and inclusion shift. 

“The most straightforward action anyone can take is to ask whose voices and expertise are missing,” said Holmes. “If you persistently ask this question, then it compels you to consider how you can create a diversity of ways for people to engage with the solutions you design.” 

As the practice continues, so too does inclusion throughout the organization. However, it only happens when you continue to ask the right questions. Simply talking about wanting inclusive design doesn’t change much of anything. You need action, as Holmes talks about on her blog, mismatch.design.

While Holmes continues her work at Google and advocates for inclusive design throughout the tech world, she’s frequently in a position of giving advice to other designers.

Her advice is simple: “inclusive design is a daily practice – like brushing your teeth. You have to do it consistently to receive the full benefits.”

Don’t miss your chance to hear Kat Holmes talking about mismatches and how inclusion shapes design at this year’s Global Summit For more info or to buy tickets, visit movethedial.com/summit