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Bart Blankwater - Aging and Human-Computer Interaction Design

19 June 2012

Contemporary computer technology has great potential to increase the quality of life for older people. Email services in particular can have a significant positive effect on their wellbeing, since electronic text messaging is a quick, cheap and accessible way of communicating with others. However, there is only modest evidence that these potentials are being realized, as most of the software is found to be inaccessible through bad interaction design. By order of Royal Dutch Visio, we therefore built a prototype email system based on a set of design guidelines that combined successful theories of usability with recommended aspects of interaction design for older users, which are believed to accommodate for the cognitive and physical declines that come with age. A comparative evaluation demonstrated the success of these design guidelines: the experimental system was significantly easier to use than, and preferred over, a commercial counterpart by a group of visually impaired older people with no or negligible experience with emailing. Additionally, the positive experience led participants to be more confident about their own computer abilities. The project has thereby given an indication of what can be achieved, and the results suggests it is possible to develop appropriate software for the increasing group of older people who are eager to learn to use computer technology, but find themselves stuck in many complex user interfaces.

Last modified:31 May 2018 4.05 p.m.

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