Designing for Older Adults
In the photo above: Mariko Kamiya (left) with Giovanni Garcia (middle) and Taylor Day (right). Photo credits: Lance Long (EVL)
For my DREU internship at UIC, I worked on a research study that aims to improve the accessibility of mobile map applications for adults aged 65 or older. I came up with the idea from watching my parents and grandparents struggle to use all the functions available to them from their smartphones and tablet devices. Most of their problems stemmed from overly complicated user interface design. I knew that map applications in particular could be extremely useful, especially for increasing older adults’ mobility, this individuals are unfairly handicapped if they do not know how to use such navigation applications. Based on informal observations of my parents (aged 55 – 70 years old) using Google Maps on their phones, I knew that Google Maps seemed to rely on its users intuitively knowing how to use the application, but older adults often have less experience using smartphones and thus are less comfortable using mobile applications that someone younger. After reviewing some of the literature in the field, I realized there was little research on how to design mobile applications for older adults, and there was almost no research on the design of mobile map applications for this demographic. So, I proposed a research study that aims to look at the challenges faced by older adults when using map applications on touchscreen smartphones and tablet devices in order to come up with a more accessible map application for this demographic. Professor Chattopadhyay and my colleague Taylor Day helped turn this idea into an actual research proposal that we could submit to the UIC Institutional Review Board, and a couple weeks later we were ready to begin recruiting! From the IRB submission process alone I learned a lot about how much preparation is required for studies involving human subjects, even if the study procedures are as non-invasive as asking participants to complete some simple tasks on a smartphone application.
After receiving IRB approval, Taylor and I began officially recruiting participants, which proved to be more difficult than we thought it would be. We put up flyers, sent out emails, and contacted any family, friends, and acquaintances that we had in the area. Since Taylor and I are not from Chicago, neither of us had many contacts in the city, which made the recruitment process more difficult. I know that if we had done the study in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I grew up, I would have been able to contact a number of family and friends eligible for the study. Despite our lack of Chicago contacts, we ultimately interviewed twelve participants and had enough qualitative data to come up with a set of design guidelines to improve the accessibility of mobile map applications for older adults.
Please click the link below if you’d like to watch a short demo of the prototype we demonstrated on July 27.