December 12th, 2016
Usability Field testing research:
The testing process consists of showing elderly different mobile applications. This allowed the researchers to observe how the elderly interacted with mobile applications, as well as receive immediate feedback on what problems were experiencing. Data was collected on the following mobile applications: Google Maps, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, Google, Snapchat, and Shazam.
When Google Maps was presented to the older adults they were all satisfied by the user interface. They loved the simplicity due to the lack of things on the screen. Most of the time the user will only see a search bar at the top of the app. This insures that a senior does not press the wrong button and know that they enter in their destination in that box and press the blue circular button to create a route to their destination. The app was later explained in detail after receiving a senior’s full impression of the application. All of the features that google maps had to offer were explained. It proved to be easy for the seniors to pick up while also giving them a huge amount of possibilities. Users understood immediately how live traffic updates where displayed on Google maps due to them choose of color coding the roads with estimated time citations. This app may have had the most successful of all of the interfaces tested.
Another mobile application tested with the older adults was Instagram. Instagram is a popular application among many younger users which may suggest a great choice to show the senior citizens, as well as to allow observations to see exactly how elderly citizens react to a complicated interface. The first impressions of the elderly citizens were that the user interface was much to cluttered and overly complicated with little details as to what features were being presented and how to use them. A common phrase the elderly used to describe the mobile application was “busy”. They believed that the app had too many things going on at one time which was cluttering the interface. then walked through the application with the elderly citizens and explained the key features of the application. After it was all explained they understood why the interface was as cluttered as it was but they believed that it would have to be simplified in order for them to use it. Their key problems in the interface were small fonts, and an overabundance on the screen. Instagram proved to be a very difficult application for the senior to use which shows to (write succinctly reducing as many nonessential words as possible) simplicity seems to be very important when it comes to user interfaces for the elderly.
Another application tested with the seniors included YouTube also owned by Google. YouTube, a video streaming application, allows the user to view a plethora of videos online created by its users. First, the elderly citizens would observe the mobile application and see videos trending. The seniors once again loved the simplicity of the application. They understood how to use it very quickly, the only parts of the application that had to be explained were the features not available to them without a membership. The seniors then received a task that involved using YouTube. They were tasked with finding a song that they know and wanted to listen to on YouTube. They all knew the button on the top in the shape of a magnifying glass was the search bar that they would have to use to look for their song. Within seconds of looking up their songs the seniors were able to find the songs that they had been looking for. The only difficulty the elderly faced was choosing a video to watch. When browsing different videos on YouTube you are unable to read the description of the video and must go solely on the title and a picture that represents the clip. This was the only thing that would impede the seniors from finding what it was they were looking for.
The next application showed them was Facebook, which similarly to Instagram was difficult for them to use. At first many of the elderly did not know how to use Facebook or even want a Facebook because it would allow other people to look them up and see pictures of them. Clinicians showed them where they can find the privacy setting to change how easily that can happen and they felt better about it, though they believed that getting to those settings was overcomplicated. Another confusing thing the seniors faced were the buttons on the bottom of the screen that they were not able to figure out the purpose for when explained to them. The only seniors that were able to navigate the Facebook application successfully were the ones that had already used Facebook previously. Most seniors were using it for the first time so many of them had problems with the user interface.
The next application tested was Netflix. Netflix is another video streaming application like YouTube but instead of user created content it allows the user to view a large amount of shows and movies as much as they like. But Netflix did not have the same level of simplicity as YouTube did for its users. For example, the search bar that Netflix utilizes is much harder for the seniors to see and is located in an awkward position which makes it difficult for them to see it. Another large problem that the seniors had was figuring out how to pause, fast-forward, and rewind their videos which are important things to do on a video that should not be complicated for the user. Though one of the things that Netflix did well was presenting the movies in categories, which made it much easier for them to find movies that they wanted to watch. Though searching within a category was difficult for seniors to do.
Google Search was the next mobile application that showed to the seniors. It was another product by Google. The seniors knew immediately how to use it because it was just a search bar with a button to click to search for things. Searching through the links for something they wanted was also very simple for them. Another reason as to why simplicity is better for mobile applications.
The next piece of software that used was Snapchat. This allows the user to communicate with another user by sending direct messages to one and another. The main features include sending messages and pictures to other users which was very easy for people to do. But, the more complicated features like the face changers proved to be very difficult for people to complete.
The last application that showed to the seniors was Shazam. This application shows the user what song is currently being played. It is a very simple application where the user only has to press one button to see what the song is. They turned out to really like the simplicity of the app and its functionality.
A preliminary conclusion of the research is that simplicity is the key to a user interface. The apps that the seniors liked the most was because of its simplicity. Simplicity allowed the seniors the ability to learn how to use the mobile application more quickly and make use of the applications main features more effectively. The apps that were more difficult to figure out were much more complex with many icons on the screen and many different things going on at the same time. (Nielsen, 1999)
Another real-life example of this would be the competition between Netscape and Google after the dot com boom. During this period Google and Netscape were competitors trying to get dominance in the browser market. In the end google would come out on top and become the dominant browser. Google’s success was attributed to its model of simplicity which it carries out throughout all of its applications. (O’Reilly, 2007)
Jakob Nielsen. (1999) Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. New Riders Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA.
O’Reilly, Tim, (First quarter 2007). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software. Communications & Strategies, No. 1, p. 17.