Building inclusion beyond Pride

How can businesses drive more sustainable, tangible change

Dave Sutton

Group Experience Design Director Beyond


Every June, the rainbow branding comes out. Businesses across the UK are keen to celebrate Pride month by getting their websites and apps to show the universal symbol of support for the LGBTQIA+ community. But is that enough?

Pride is a good time to shine the spotlight on promoting equality and showing support, but if brands want to become real allies, they need to focus on driving more sustainable and tangible change. The first step is to make LGBTQIA+ people feel seen, not only in June, but all year round.

Changes in seemingly small elements of digital products can make them more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ folks, and this can have a much bigger and, crucially, more permanent impact than a rainbow flag ever could.

Challenges with inclusion

Inclusion in product design takes work, but it’s non-negotiable if brands want to build user experiences that resonate with all customer groups. If you don’t intentionally focus on improving inclusion, you might unintentionally exclude – a risk few brands should be willing to take.

For example, the language your brand uses—or doesn’t use—to talk to customers can have a huge impact on inclusion. This is particularly evident when brands collect customer data using digital forms and the assumptions they make about the people using their products and services.

If a cultural moment like Pride can inspire brands to make their offering more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people, the learnings they gain in the process are fully transferable.

Dave Sutton, Group Experience Design Director, Beyond

One common problem is the lack of options when specifying a gender. For non-cis folks, filling out forms can be a devastating experience when it becomes clear that the brand you want to associate yourself with doesn’t even see you as a potential customer. By increasing the number of gender options—or allowing users to specify their own—brands can make huge strides in helping more people feel seen.

Eliminating microaggressions

Microaggressions can easily make their way into digital products and websites if teams are not proactively looking out for them. Unintentional deadnaming is a poignant example of this: when someone who has transitioned and chosen a new name is approached by an organisation, such as a bank, by using their given name in marketing communications.

The exclusion of personal pronouns on many social media, communication and co-working platforms is another common case of inbuilt microaggression that non-cisgender people have to encounter daily. Many platforms still don’t have an option for including preferred pronouns next to one’s name, or the option is only available if enabled by management or IT. If the option was a mandatory feature, it would create a more inclusive experience for everyone, without non-cis users having to request it or, in the absence of it, having to correct or affirm their pronouns.

In some cases, building inclusion into digital products can be complicated. Some services, especially in the government, healthcare and banking sectors, can legally require users to register with their birth name and gender, which might not reflect their current identity. Here, service providers can work around these requirements by providing options to personalise the experience, for example, by allowing users to specify their preferred name for use in all communications.

Fostering a culture of inclusion

So what steps can brands take to ensure the experiences they offer cater for everyone? The first is to acknowledge that inclusion is a journey, and actively seek high-quality information and resources.

Everyone should be thinking about and contributing to inclusive design, and this needs to be supported by a company culture that promotes open discussion and challenges the status quo. It’s easy to think that brands with higher representation of minority groups in their workforce will have an advantage in this area, but it’s important to remember that it’s not the job of these individuals to educate the rest of the team.

Partnering with—and adequately compensating—credible organisations with a clear viewpoint on inclusion can help refine internal processes around design and production to ensure they align with best practices.

Having a structure in place to ensure focus on inclusion helps prevent it from getting sidelined. At Beyond, for example, we have collaboratively developed an internal inclusion checklist that the team refers to throughout the lifecycle of a project. It’s a work in progress and evolving with time, but it helps to get inclusion front-of-mind for everyone from the onset, including the brands we work with.

Inclusion year-round

While June is a good time to centre LGBTQIA+ inclusion, there’s also a bigger opportunity here. If a cultural moment like Pride can inspire brands to make their offering more inclusive for LGBTQIA+ people, the learnings they gain in the process are fully transferable. If you can do it for Pride, what other moments of celebration and awareness could you apply it to?

By looking at many occasions throughout the year with the same lens, brands can commit to a sustained focus on inclusive design and build better experiences that are truly for everyone. It’s the right thing to do ethically, but it’s also a crucial business advantage—making more inclusive digital experiences will help brands reach new customers, build loyalty in previously untapped user groups and create a solid and sustainable foundation for future growth.

Guest Author

Dave Sutton

Group Experience Design Director Beyond


Dave is a human-centred UX design and research leader with 15 years of experience building digital services for customers and employees of top global brands. He and his teams thrive by designing experiences, systems and tools that meet genuine user needs and achieve tangible business goals. He has planned and led human-centred design projects for multiple global brands including Google, MoneySuperMarket, Block One, Luxottica Group, Chrysler, Barclay's, UBS, Fidelity UK, Novartis, and Juniper Networks. Dave is passionate about inclusive design and promoting diversity in the creative professions to ensure the products we create work well for everyone. He also works on Flipside, an annual programme to help pipeline more talent from underrepresented backgrounds into the creative industries in London. In his spare time, Dave is a keen gardener, runner and Crossfitter, and sings with the London Gay Men’s chorus, a charity performing group dedicated to pursuing equality for all LQBTQIA+ people.