WebExpo 2024: 5+1 Questions for Dominika Potužáková and Ondřej Raul, Designers and Researchers

The WebExpo 2024 conference is focused on accessibility and offers several opportunities for those interested in this topic to get to know it better. One is the talk by Dominika Potužáková and Ondřej Raul, named Legible Prague: Inclusive revolution of city wayfinding.

In this talk, Dominika and Ondřej will explore the vital role that diverse perspectives play in crafting an inclusive wayfinding system for Prague. This talk underscores the significance of placing a variety of people, each with unique needs, at the core of the design process. By understanding and addressing a range of requirements, from physical abilities to socio-cultural differences, you will learn how to create a wayfinding system that ensures accessibility and navigational ease for every resident and visitor.

Firstly, let me briefly introduce Dominika and Ondřej. Dominika is a multidisciplinary designer specialising in research in public spaces and physical products at her design studio, Bohemia design & research. Ondřej is a UX designer, researcher, and co-founder of the strategic design company, Stride XL.

Radek: Can you explain the importance of diverse perspectives in designing an inclusive wayfinding system for a city like Prague?

Domi & Ondřej: Diverse perspectives are crucial in designing an inclusive wayfinding system for a city like Prague because they address a basic human need for navigation and accessibility, as emphasized by Veronika Egger, an inclusive information designer and one of the jury in the international competition for the new navigation system in Prague. Public services must be truly for everyone, ensuring they do not discriminate against any individuals, including those who rely on public transportation or inability to walk long distances. For many, public transport is not a choice but a necessity. Therefore, an inclusive wayfinding system ensures that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, can navigate the city efficiently and with dignity.

Radek: What are some common pitfalls to avoid when creating an inclusive wayfinding system, and how did you address them in your project?

Domi & Ondřej: Common pitfalls to avoid when creating an inclusive wayfinding system include not inviting everyone to the table or involving them too late in the process. It’s essential to include diverse voices from the beginning to ensure all perspectives are considered. Another mistake is focusing solely on numbers rather than the needs of the people. Even if a diagnosis affects only a few, situational disabilities can impact many, and their needs must be addressed. Also relying only on quantitative research can overlook important qualitative insights. Additionally, insufficient communication about the project can lead to misunderstandings and lack of user engagement. In our project, we tackled these issues by engaging stakeholders early, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research, and maintaining transparent and ongoing communication throughout the process.

Radek: How did you approach recruiting people with special needs?

Domi & Ondřej: When you start digging a bit, you’ll find that there are many organizations in the Czech Republic that bring together people with similar needs. Likewise, you’ll come across various groups on social media. The only thing left is to not be afraid and reach out to them. In our experience, they are usually very willing to participate in research and provide feedback. Additionally, we are very fortunate to always be able to reach out to colleagues who work “full-time” on accessibility and inclusion (thanks, Radek) for help.

At the same time, it’s important to realize that people’s needs often overlap. It’s not always necessary to find someone with such specific needs that it complicates recruitment significantly. There is likely an adequate alternative. But that’s a bit of a spoiler of what we’ll be talking about in our presentation :).

Radek: How do you balance the requirements of inclusivity with practical constraints such as budget, space, and existing infrastructure?

Domi & Ondřej: The biggest challenge from our point of view is space and existing infrastructure. Even though new sign holders are being developed, it will take some time and the new holders won’t magically appear everywhere. Someone will have to install them. Installation often means electricity wires. Electricity wires means new technical documentation. And we could go on as you can imagine. However, it will help if you plan all these activities at the beginning of this project, which is our case.

Throughout the development process we use an iterative design approach. This allows us to make gradual adjustments and refinements of the design, ensuring the system meets diverse needs before full implementation. By fine-tuning the design in stages, we can manage costs effectively while progressively integrating the wayfinding system into the city.

Radek: What advice would you give to other cities or organizations looking to create their own inclusive wayfinding systems, based on your experiences in Prague?

Domi & Ondřej: Based on our experiences in Prague, our advice to other cities or organizations looking to create their own inclusive wayfinding systems would be to adopt a start-from-scratch approach instead of merely tweaking existing systems. Thinking holistically and starting early helps a lot and be prepared for a lengthy process—it’s definitely more than a couple of months‘ project. Embrace iteration and validation, ensuring you test the system in real environments with a wide range of users. Engage stakeholders early on, communicate transparently and continuously about the project, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for guidance and support.

Radek: Why should WebExpo attendees join your talk?

Domi & Ondřej: We see two main motivations for attending our talk. First, participants will gain an understanding of the importance and impact of inclusive design. We will discuss the specific needs of different groups of people and explain why inclusive design matters to everyone. Second, attendees will have a unique opportunity to ask questions about the Legible Prague project. We know there are mixed emotions surrounding it, so we hope to address any concerns and explain the reasoning behind certain design decisions.

Thank you very much for the interview, and I look forward to your talk at WebExpo 2024!

For those who would like to join Dominika, Ondřej and other excellent speakers at WebExpo 2024, there is a coupon code “poslepu“ for 20 % off the ticket price.

Buy the Ticket & Enjoy WebExpo 2024

Design experiences: Dominika Potužáková – Tajemství nacítění uživatelů

Radek Pavlíček

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