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Web Usability and Age

Web Usability and Age

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Web Usability and Age

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  1. Web Usability and Age Thomas S. Tullis ( Ann Chadwick-Dias ( Human Interface Design Department, Fidelity Investments Materials for AARP Panel: Tyranny of the Tiny Type March 4, 2003

  2. Research on Web Usability & Age • Our overall goal is to improve the usability of Fidelity’s web sites for users of all ages. • Some specific questions we have been studying over the past year: • Does age affect how users interact with web sites? • Is this independent of web experience? • Does age affect users’ subjective reactions to web sites, such as their level of trust in financial web sites? • What design factors improve usability and subjective reactions for different age groups?

  3. Why Are We Studying This? • Increasing number of older adults in the US, as shown by the 2000 census. • According to the Administration on Aging (2001), there are an estimated 4.2 million Internet users over the age of 65 in the United States. • As older users are increasingly exposed to technology, understanding their unique requirements will become paramount in the design of human interfaces. • In short, older adults are a very important group for our company, and we want to provide them with the best possible service.

  4. Overview of Our Studies • Study 1: • Learn whether there are differences in how users of various ages interact with a web site, and whether text size has an effect on usability. • Study 2: • Redesigned the prototype to address specific usability problems encountered by older users in Study 1. • Study 3 (still underway): • Confirm some of the earlier findings with a wide variety of live financial services sites. • Investigate subjective factors, such as trust.

  5. Common Approaches– All Studies • Used external participants of varying ages: • Not Fidelity employees or current customers. • Tried to control for web/PC experience across ages. • All studies were conducted in our Usability Labs in Boston. • All studies involved asking the participants to perform representative tasks. • Displayed sites in 800x600 resolution on a 17-inch monitor using Microsoft® Internet Explorer® version 6.0. • Data collected: Subjective ratings, task duration, task success, click data, and extensive observations.

  6. Studies 1 & 2: Overall Conclusions • Even when level of PC/Web experience is controlled, older adults experience more usability issues on the web than younger adults. • When specific design modifications were made to accommodate the unique needs of older adults, the modifications improved usability for all users, with equal effect. • But we still did not “close the usability gap” between younger and older users.

  7. Lesson 1: Reading • Older adults tend to read most of the text on a page. • Design Implications: • Reduce the amount of text on each page while conveying the required information and not compromising the effectiveness of instructional text. • Be as concise as possible when providing instructions.

  8. Lesson 2: “Cautious Clicking” • Older users tend to be more cautious in everything they do on the web, including clicking on links. • Design Implications: • Use action-word links– links that clearly explain what will happen when the user clicks the link. • The more clear the resulting action for the link, the more likely older users will click it (and the faster they will click it).

  9. Lesson 3: Larger Text • Even though it may not significantly improve overall performance, older users prefer larger text. • Design implications: • Use a “medium-sized” default font. • Provide an obvious way for older users to increase text size, like a visible button. • Use “scalable fonts” or fonts that will allow the user to increase and decrease text size using the browser functions (View > Text Size > Larger).

  10. Lesson 4: Links • Older users are more likely to click objects that look “clickable”, including bullets, headings, etc. • Older adults have difficulty clicking small text links. • Design Implications: • Use an obvious and consistent method of displaying text links, like blue underlining with red on mouseover. • Use image-based links that provide a larger target area for the user to click. • Increase redundancy in links (making text AND bullets links) to increase the chances that older users will successfully reach their target.

  11. Lesson 5: Confidence & Anxiety • Numerous experiential differences contribute to older users’ overall level of confidence and anxiety in using the web. • The more success older users experience with a particular site, the higher their confidence level will become, and the lower their overall anxiety. • Design Implications: • Keep your design simple and stable. Too many changes in the design over a short period of time will force the older users to re-learn how to work with the site.

  12. Lesson 6: Terminology • Older users often do not understand terms that younger users consider common knowledge. • Some of these terms include Back (or go Back), link (click the link), URL, menu bar, toolbar, IM, minimize, Login, and home. • Design Implications: • Do not use web or other technology-related terms without defining them. • Keep terminology as simple as possible throughout your site.

  13. Lesson 7: Consider Disabilities • As people age, they have an increased likelihood of disabilities, including visual (myopia, cataracts, etc.), fine motor (tremors in hands), muscular/skeletal (bone disease like arthritis), and cognitive (short-term memory decreases). • Design Implications: • Review the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This provides recommendations for supporting assistive technologies and designing for users with disabilities.

  14. Lesson 8: Too Much Detail • Older users have difficulty working with pages that are dense or have too much detail. • Design Implications: • Keep pages as simple as possible so that older users do not encounter “information overload.” • Provide concise instructional text and break information up into separate pages if necessary, so that no one page presents too much information or requires users to remember too much.

  15. Conclusions: Studies 1 and 2 • Older adults probably experience lower usability because of a myriad of contributing factors, including site design factors, as well as social, cultural, cognitive, psychological, and physical factors, and overall differences in life experience. • Site design modifications that help older users will often help younger users too. • Additional research needs to be conducted to learn more about how to design interfaces to better meet the needs of older users.

  16. What’s Next? • Finish this third study! • Determine which specific site design features impact subjective reactions such as trust and whether this differs by age. • Consider multiple “life-stage-based” designs for web sites (based on what we learn in the current study). • Test different age groups on different prototypes. Ultimately learn how to design web sites to optimize the experience for users of all ages.