Media Feature: University of Calgary

Chantal Palmer, Social Innovation Hub, Innovate Calgary

Apr. 22, 2022

User testing: If it doesn’t work for someone, it doesn’t work for everyone

"Products and services won't be as effective and won't reach their full potential without getting feedback from diverse voices.”

Haskayne alumni and current fellow in the Research to Social Innovation Incubator (R2SI) run by Innovate Calgary, Geoff Zakaib was inspired by the work of the Civic User Testing Group in Chicago to integrate the voices of users with the technologies that shape their lives. Influenced by their success and similar projects in other major cities, CivicTechYYC and CalgaryUX communities came together to form IncluCity Calgary as a nonprofit organization in 2021.


The ways we work, play and live have changed rapidly over the past few years, and the race is on for developers to meet our needs with new technologies and solutions. Zakaib thinks it's imperative to engage a representative and diverse group of people in the development and testing of these solutions to ensure that they truly work for everyone who uses them.


“Over the past couple of years so much has gone online, even face-to-face meetings. We are all expected to use the tech, but it's not built and tested with everybody in mind,” says Zakaib. “Many times, when companies do usability testing, they often go to their colleagues or use marketing firms that leave them with a very homogeneous testing group that is not representative of the broader society.”

IncluCity works with local organizations and communities to recruit a representative sample of Calgarians to complete user testing. This approach focuses on relationships with an understanding that respect is built on trust.


They then create a usability testing plan that will meet the needs of both their clients and the testing group, working to build an approach that addresses considerations including accessibility, language, cultural, location and a variety of others. IncluCity is looking to engage with clients including government teams developing digital tools, tech businesses, not-for-profits, or other technology groups who are developing or improving their product, process or service.


Businesses not only benefit, but testers, too


Testing organizations aren’t the only beneficiaries of IncluCity Calgary’s services. Marginalized communities also have access to supports that can improve their digital literacy. “Sometimes members of our pool of testers have not had much exposure to technology, so our team works closely with them to improve their digital literacy through training programs, hands-on experience and networking opportunities” says Zakaib.


Having done extensive work in corporate Calgary and currently on the board of several not-for-profits, Zakaib recognizes the rapid pace that technology is moving and the need to support new Calgarians with upskilling.“Everyone must be a digital citizen right now to really be able to thrive economically, culturally and socially, in Calgary, Alberta and Canada. We want to give everyone the best chance of success through our program.” In the future Zakaib hopes IncluCity Calgary can offer a micro credential for being involved with IncluCity’s usability testing program so that newcomers and people with varying abilities can improve their job prospects.


What's next for IncluCity


IncluCity Calgary is exploring how they can improve the sustainability of their organization through the R2SI program and they look forward to expanding to more Alberta cities and towns in the future. Zakaib is grateful for the support he has received from the University of Calgary and Innovate Calgary and is excited for the continued support he will receive from the Social Innovation Hub to make that a reality.


“The relationships and contacts we have built by connecting with Innovate Calgary have benefited us greatly. The Social Innovation Hub as a gathering point and connector into Calgary’s social innovation ecosystem with their programmatic offerings like R2SI will be critical.”

Meet the IncluCity team at the Social Innovator Celebration


On Oct. 13, you can connect with some of our city's most remarkable socially purposed ventures and innovators, get support and expert advice for your social enterprise and provide input on the Social Innovation Hub at the Social Innovators Celebration.Uriel Karerwa, the project co-ordinator for IncluCity Calgary is excited to welcome you to their booth to meet the team, learn more about what they do and how you can get involved.


“I am excited about the potential for IncluCity Calgary to make an impact in the tech ecosystem and democratize the tech design process, and can’t wait to engage the community as people visit our booth.”

Innovate Calgary is the innovation transfer and business incubator centre for the University of Calgary. As part of the Office of the Vice-President (Research) portfolio and as a member of the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, we work closely with researchers, faculty, and students to help bridge the gap between discovery and creating economic and societal impact.


Social Innovation Week puts the spotlight on those who help mobilize academic research into solutions that benefit society. From Oct. 11 to 14 participate in a mash-up of activities hosted by members of UCalgary’s vast ecosystem and community


To read the full article, visit UCalgary News.