Illustration by Emma Zhang

As designers, we have a responsibility to address structural inequality in our communities, in society, and in our products. Adobe’s mission has always been to create products that empower people to change the world, and in order to be successful in that, we continually strive toward inclusive, accessible, equitable products. And as the world continues to evolve, it’s become clear that many of the biases designers have — conscious and unconscious — end up in what we make, unless we take steps to counter them.

So, the UX content strategy team in Adobe Design has put together a new resource. Our guide to inclusive UX writing is now part of Spectrum, Adobe’s design system, because what we say and how we say it is just as important as how things look when it comes to creating inclusive user experiences. We’ve published this guide because language is undeniably part of design. Words are essential and a foundational part of a design system. 

This guide contains information about designing content for accessibility and inclusion in general, with specific sections dedicated to:

Words to use, phrases to avoid

Our guide also offers ways to think about the needs of many different types of people in addition to a catalog of words to avoid and phrases to lean toward. This effort takes more than a find-and-replace solution to undo problematic language. It takes sustained, conscious effort to change the way we use words, inside and outside digital experiences, to exclude fewer people. This guide is a small part of our mission towards inclusivity and equity.

Because the subject in this guide can be very culturally specific, our first version is pretty U.S.-focused, so some may not make sense in other cultural contexts. But regardless of where you live, what culture you identify with, or what community you’re part of, conscious and unconscious bias exist. It can find its way in the products we build and use every day. The end result of those biases — exclusion and harm — is the same, and we so we will continue to add to and refine this guide to make sure it gives truly global guidance.

If you’re someone who creates product experiences, we invite you to read the guide, sit with it, and notice the words you use when you write, speak, and think. This is a place to start for anyone who wants to express themselves more inclusively, and it’s intended to advance the discussion, not end it. 

And just as language evolves and changes, we plan for this documentation to evolve and change as well. We want to hear your feedback! Please let us know your thoughts by filling out this form.

Authored with contributions from Adobe’s Jess Sattell and Andy Welfle.