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tips for conducting usability studies with older adults

Tips for Conducting Usability Studies with Older Adults

Seminar on Older Users and the Web


Washington, DC

July 20, 2004

Thomas S. Tullis, Ph.D.

Senior Vice President

Human Interface Design

Fidelity Investments

[email protected]

usability tests with older adults
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
Tips for Testing with Older Users
  • Recruiting
  • Planning and Preparation
  • Testing
  • Participatory design (FIDO)
recruiting tips
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 tips6
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
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 tips8
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
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 tips10
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
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
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
Our Study Using FIDO
  • Took screen shots of the home pages of plus five of our competitors.
  • “Anonymized” them (removed references to company names, etc).
our study using fido14
Our Study Using FIDO
  • Printed the screen-shots (in grayscale) on magnetic-backed paper.
  • Laminated them.
  • Cut them into their components (abt 130).
simulated browser window
Simulated Browser Window

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

data collection
Data Collection

Took digital photos of the pages built.

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

advantages of fido
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.