Device Bias

Device Bias Considerations - UX Design for ElderlyEventually, diminished vision and motor control will make small screens impractical for most people as they age (at least with today’s technologies).  The smartphone is a young person’s tool.  Older people consistently describe smartphones as “annoying”.  Those who own them seldom use them beyond making phone calls, and some do not use them for days at a time.  They often ignore text messages, reminders, and app notifications entirely. These factors should inform UX design for elderly people (“UX” is shorthand for “user experience”).

But most older adults aren’t afraid to try new technology when they see a clear benefit.  For example, as a percentage, seniors make up a significant market for iPads and Android tablets.  This makes sense when you consider the benefits of a tablet over a smartphone: the larger readable screen size and the more forgiving finger tapping area.

But the benefits of a tablet cannot be realized if a user interface does not take full advantage of the larger touch screen and tapping area.  It’s very easy to find examples of this in various app stores, where too many software apps are developed for an iPhone or Android smartphone with little consideration of how they will look or function on a tablet (or vice versa).  These types of problems will grow as engineers seek the holy grail of a single software code base that will run across all devices.

Mitigation Strategies:

  • Avoid smaller touch screens to provide a better UX design for elderly people.
  • Take full advantage of larger touch areas and larger screens with finer resolution in your UX design for elderly people.
  • Keep in mind how the same user interface will look and function on different devices, even if you do not intend for it to be used on some of these devices.
  • Design user interface elements always taking into account the possible variations in screen size (inches) and screen resolution (number of pixels). Rather than using absolute pixels it’s better to design in terms of pixels per inch (ppi) or points (pt) or density independent pixels (dp) which are all device size and resolution independent measures for scaling across varying devices.  For website pages, use responsive design which employs proportion-based grids, flexible images and CSS3 media queries.
  • Take advantage of operating system level iOS and Android software developer kits and application programing interfaces to optimize the user interface for different devices.
  • Consider new cross-platform-development technologies, such as Cordova, Corona or Xamarin, which seek to be device independent.

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