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Tips for Conducting Usability Studies with Older Adults. Seminar on Older Users and the Web GSA & AARP Washington, DC July 20, 2004. Thomas S. Tullis, Ph.D. Senior Vice President Human Interface Design Fidelity Investments [email protected] Usability Lab at Fidelity.

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Tips for Conducting Usability Studies with Older Adults

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Tips for Conducting Usability Studies with Older Adults

Seminar on Older Users and the Web

GSA & AARP

Washington, DC

July 20, 2004

Thomas S. Tullis, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President

Human Interface Design

Fidelity Investments

[email protected]


Usability Lab at Fidelity


Usability Tests with Older Adults

Over the past 3 years, we’ve conducted usability sessions with about 150 people 50 or older.

Oldest participant: 85

Wide range of Web skills


Tips for Testing with Older Users

  • Recruiting

  • Planning and Preparation

  • Testing

  • Participatory design (FIDO)


Recruiting Tips

  • If you care about level of web expertise, may need to develop better screening criteria:

    • Frequency of web use

    • How long they’ve been using the web

    • Variety of sites visited

    • Variety of tasks performed (email, purchasing, etc)

    • How they learned to use the web

  • Those who retired before the web was common in the workplace will tend to have less web expertise, even if they use it every day.


Recruiting Tips

  • Consider networking for recruiting

    • e.g., “family and friends”, contacts, etc

    • Older adults seem less likely to respond to “cold call” requests to participate

  • Logistics of getting to the test:

    • Consider conducting it at a Senior Center.

    • Consider special arrangements for getting to a Usability Lab.

    • Let them bring their spouse or a friend.

  • Make sure all aspects of the test are described before-hand (e.g., videotaping).


Planning and Preparation Tips

  • Consider using co-discovery (paired users)

    • Especially appropriate for husband and wife

  • Be prepared for them to show up for the test early!

  • Schedule more time for a session than you would with younger users.

    • For pre-test briefing

    • For actual testing

    • For post-test debriefing


Planning and Preparation Tips

  • Learn as much about their normal computer environment as possible and try to replicate it, e.g.:

    • Operating system

    • Browser

    • Monitor size

    • Screen resolution

    • Special keyboard characteristics (e.g., larger keys)

    • Mouse type (e.g., scroll wheel or not)


Testing Tips

  • If you normally moderate the study from another room, consider moderating from the same room as the user.

    • Puts the user more at ease.

    • Works better for users with hearing impairments.

  • Some older users have an even greater tendency to attribute difficulties they encounter to themselves.

    • Watch for this and be prepared to deal with it.


Testing Tips

  • Be particularly careful about using web or technical jargon in your:

    • Task descriptions

    • Interaction with the user

  • Some terms you might not think of as jargon:

    • Home

    • Login

    • Window


Participatory Design Tips

  • A technique that has worked well for us to involve older adults in the user-centered design process:

    • FIDO: Freehand Interactive Design Offline

  • For details, see paper presented at UPA 2004:

    • Donna Tedesco, Ann Chadwick-Dias, & Tom Tullis (2004). Freehand Interactive Design Offline (FIDO): A New Methodology for Participatory Design.

    • Contact: [email protected]


The FIDO Technique

  • Give users a set of web-page components, or building blocks, printed on magnetic paper.

  • Ask them to build their own page(s).


Our Study Using FIDO

  • Took screen shots of the home pages of Fidelity.com plus five of our competitors.

  • “Anonymized” them (removed references to company names, etc).


Our Study Using FIDO

  • Printed the screen-shots (in grayscale) on magnetic-backed paper.

  • Laminated them.

  • Cut them into their components (abt 130).


Presented the Elements to Users


Simulated Browser Window

Asked users to “build” their ideal financial services homepage.


A Sample Session


Data Collection

Took digital photos of the pages built.

Also took digital photos under “black light” to facilitate documenting the element IDs!


Sample Pages Built


Advantages of FIDO

  • Less anxiety-producing than interacting with a real system, especially for older adults.

  • Fun and interactive!

  • Use as much space as you need.

  • Can be done as a group exercise.

  • Users could be allowed to add their own content.


  • Login