Inclusive Digital Services for the Municipality of Amsterdam

Little over 850.000 citizens live in this diverse, beautiful city. From Marc to Mohammed. From baby to granny. From garbage collector to PhD student. Every citizen has their context, needs, wishes and challenges. How to design online services that can be used by everyone?


The municipality of Amsterdam focuses on combating inequality. The ambition of the municipality is to create a city supported by technology that has value for all of its inhabitants. Knowledge, information and education should be accessible and available for everyone. This is done by increasing the self-reliance of the inhabitant.

The objective: design principles of inclusive design

The objective of the project was to create guiding design principles for the development of inclusive digital services. These design principles will ensure that all inhabitants can benefit equally. The municipality teamed up with Koos Service Design to tackle this challenge. Together they selected three diverse target audiences of which is expected to have the most issues with digital services: seniors, inhabitants with a minor mental disability, and inhabitants with a migrant background.

In sum, the team conducted 57 in-depth interviews, completed three design sprints and built 3 prototypes in about 30 days.

In-depth interviews and Design Sprints

The approach? Start with the customer. Qualitative research combined with contextmapping helped the team to not only understand the citizens better but also to become aware of their own biases. The insights were collected in a research report and illustrated with a high-level customer journey. Next, a design sprint was conducted with the main question: how might we apply the benefits of phone services to digital services, to make citizens feel more comfortable and self-reliant? This resulted in validated concepts.

Making impact

As an outcome, the findings serve as the foundation for what inclusive design can mean for the municipality. The design principles function as a compass to design inclusive services today and in the future. Texts and images have been adjusted on the website. Projects have started to build on top of the prototype findings, including remote viewing, video-calling, and video chat. 

 

On top of this, the biggest department of research, information and statistics agreed to continue with the research and to involve a bigger variety of target groups. These research projects are conducted for all departments in the municipality and for answering political questions.

Sharing the story of inclusive design

The project is used as a showcase within the municipality to talk about the importance of customer-centric design and inclusive design. It featured as one of the main talks of a nationwide event about inclusive design in government.

Inclusive Design is important

We believe that it is our responsibility as service designers to design services that can be used by as many people as possible. We hope to inspire other municipalities all across the world to start designing inclusive services. If we just rely on our own experience and abilities, we will design services that are easy for some people to use, but difficult for everyone else. It is our mission to:

  • Make public services of the municipality accessible, understandable and usable for everyone
  • Design for “extreme users” to make our products more accessible for everyone 
  • Learn from diversity by including a diverse group of people, early in the process
  • Focus on providing citizens and designers with the means and power to make their services more accessible
  • Reflect on our biases and avoid tendencies for exclusion in the process continually

“We need to go beyond thinking about accessibility, with all of the inherent biases that come along with creating a baseline of ‘normal’ versus those with ‘access needs’. And start to think in terms of ‘inclusion’ of a full spectrum of needs instead. […] If we relied only on people who look like us and have the same experiences as us to use our services, we’d be unlikely to have many users.”

– Lou Downe, author of Good Services

Ready to make your services more inclusive? Get in touch!

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