14 / 07 / 2009Designing for Seniors: the Understated Challenge

Source: picture from Trends in Cell Phones.

Mobile interfaces are just like online interfaces…they are human-computer system interfaces.

Designing Online Experiences For Seniors: A Panel Discussion

Elizabeth Boehm, Principal Analyst, Forrester
Mike Paciello, Founder & Principal, The Paciello Group
Kath Straub, Principle, Usability.org
From the Forrester Customer Experience Forum: NYC Hyatt, June 22nd 2009.

NB: Please forgive the point-form-mode-of-expression here as you read my notes as they were ‘jotted on my computer’ during the panel…and which I completely forgot to publish during the conference!!! Too much was going on there at the same time honestly, and I did not want to miss anything! I would guess that our two experts’ insights and tips are still valuable a few weeks later…? 😉

What design practices are helping companies in developing interfaces valuable to senior users?

  • Flexible designs (ex.: using style sheets to differ presentation from structure)
  • Pieces of information VS all at once to respect for assimilation time and for cognitive load
  • Make the security and privacy elements of the site stand out
  • Bringing the representatives of these constituencies to understand who they are focusing on their perspective and needs
  • Use deep level interviews (value) to understand the deeper needs of older adults
  • Develop personas using storytelling to explore and discover motivators/blocks holding them back from engaging
  • Proven methodologies don’t change so much with seniors, the problem is to motivate the designers to be proactive and go outside their way to reach out to this group (good reason to get there)

    What characteristics differentiate seniors as users?

  • Patience with things that ‘don’t work’ or ‘are inapropriate’
    This is true of people less used with technology in general, not just seniors, they don’t trust themselves with identifying what is wrong or why it is wrong
    Ex. small characters : young people would think if they would have wanted me to read it they wd have made it bigger
  • Learning differently
    Older people: more cautious vs younger people more carefreeness and the expectations about what they should learn are different
  • It takes longer for seniors to create a cognitive model (applies to a cognitive ability level)…fear breaking need to get them started is more resource intensive process require more guidance and help to put them on tracks to sustain the process themselves afterwards for they don’t know what is on the other side
  • Language is important
    For things as basic as instructions from manufacturers: like USB port (don’t know what it is) or instructions like “plug it into the system” but they only look at the screen and forget about the tower under the desk…
  • They don’t mind being passive users
    Older adults are more than happy to play videos vs to record/create them
    Listening is useful enough for them and they don’t feel passive doing the listening
  • What is useful for seniors
    Connecting them with the rest of the world
    Kinds of interactions which are important are interactions with family members on Facebook for instance
  • Community of older users don’t fully understand what techno can bring to them, the full flavour of it: part of the problem is trust and part is relational
  • The what’s in it for me question is different for them
    People like to engage with companies where people of their kind are engaged too: so use testimonies and other things to showcase the people who are really involved (social psychology language)
  • Find the right combination between self service and assisted service
    Ex: Jitterbug cell phone simplified cell phone targeting senior users
    Kiosks and training center on the afternoons for banking services when they observed that older people were coming: hand holding experience to guide them through the basics
    The banking teller kind of experience is still needed, still is the reference in their mind.
  • Design for HELP! Design to HELP! Design your HELP section!
    ROI from seniors: “You’ve helped me be more autonomous and now my brand connexion with you is very strong”


    Read on the use of Wii fit in health care and seniors’ houses to understand what you need to target to reach out to seniors…for if you push the effort to make your technology invisible enough, seniors can and will adopt the technologies!

    Je remercie la Chaire de commerce électronique RBC Groupe Financier pour son soutien financier pour la participation à cette conférence.

  • 8 / 07 / 2009Balancing Security with Usability : results from a new study shedding light on this design challenge

    E-commerce sites are failing to present security measures in a user-friendly way”.

    This article struck me as very interesting as I am presently conducting usability testing with a financial services’ Web site, on its newly redesigned information on security section aiming at better serve and educate their online clients about security issues.

    The challenge is to reassure fearful clients regarding all the measures offered to them, and sometimes even guaranteed to them. But the key question is how much information is enough in such contexts? For some users, reassuring them implies exhaustivity, and for other, it means clear but short basic security statements along with the right cues during interaction, like the security lock icon which should always be there, right in your face.

    Here are the first lines of the article but the best part are the results!

    “Experts at a recent roundtable event hosted by Oracle debated the results of a survey which casts new light on the problems faced by online merchants in balancing security with usability, and maintaining customer loyalty.

    There were calls for e-commerce firms to better communicate with customers on the security steps being taken, and to approach online fraud prevention in a more sophisticated and multi-layered way.

    The study, entitled Online Security: A Human Perspective, was commissioned by Oracle and carried out by user experience consultancy Foviance. The firm surveyed 550 UK consumers, gathering quantitative data which was then enhanced with qualitative data from the results of a diary study and focus groups.

    The results:

    They suggest an “almost frightening lack of understanding and awareness about online security and the resulting threats…with only 15 per cent of respondents admitted to not understanding the risks”[…]”People were using vocabulary they didn’t understand [like phishing and malware] because they’d heard it in the press”. […]The survey found that many current security measures are “cumbersome and non-intuitive”, forcing many to circumvent such measures with risky strategies, such as writing passwords on bills or in diaries.”

    Read more! Here is the full article by Phil Muncaster, from V3.co.uk, formerly VNUNET.com.
    July 6th, 2009.

    It is interesting to read the results in the light of Jakob Nielsen’s recent alertbox (June 23rd, 2009) discussing Usability issues around masking password design practices, and claiming that “Usability suffers when users type in passwords and the only feedback they get is a row of bullets. Typically, masking passwords doesn’t even increase security, but it does cost you business due to login failures.”

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