End of the Year Report

End of the Year Report

            During my time as a student faculty researcher I have learned how to conduct research. This was the first experience that I have had to conduct research and make observations based on research. I also looked at scholarly journals written by other people to see the research they have done and how it relates to what I am doing. Which I was able to use to back up my findings because they turned out to be very similar.

Our conclusion of all of this has been the same in all of the blogs. In order to improve the experience of the elderly using mobile applications you must keep the application as simple as possible. For example, the most successful applications that the elderly have used were applications like Google. Which had only one purpose and one thing on the screen so the user knew exactly what they were doing and there was no opportunity for confusion to emerge. This research experience has taught me a valuable lesson on designing mobile applications that I will be able to apply to any software I engineer in the future.

Blog #3

Brian O’Leary

Dr. Coppola

March 20th, 2017

Blog # 3

            So far only a little more research has happened since the last time a blog post was written. The only field research that has been able to be conducted since the Winter break has been on how the elderly use the mobile application Apple News. This is due to the fact that the researchers had to get seniors to do research with at senior centers. The most common observation of seniors using Apple News is that this application is too difficult for the elderly to use. This is due to how it represents itself, the app opens up to a screen exploding with many different news articles. Which is not bad design by the app, though other functions of the app make this not as wonderful. The seniors were able to click on each article they wanted to read in order to learn more information about an event. The problem occurred when they realized they did not know how to get back to the original screen. This trapped some seniors to only be able to read one article. On a side note other seniors also explored the applications tabs on the bottom of the screens and got lost and were not able to get back to the main page with the news articles.

            A simple solution to a problem like this would be to just make the application much simpler. All that would be required of you would be to remove all of the extra functions which may seem important. Perhaps this new version of the app’s only purpose was to provide the news with no special features. This would mean that you could just simply have an article on the page and the user could swipe left or right to the next article and scroll up or down to read the rest of the article. This would follow the golden rule of being simple which allows for a more optimized user interface for senior citizens.

When conducting this research the hardest challenge that has been experienced with doing this research is finding a senior citizen to do research with. This requires the cooperation of a senior center as well as the senior citizen. Then setting up meeting with a senior can take time as well, but once that is all completed conducting the research itself is rather simple. All that is required is for the researcher to observe how the senior citizen reacts to the mobile application, as well as how they use the application. A researcher is able to determine rather quickly if the application is properly optimized for the senior citizen. If it is not then the researcher is able to observe more details of how the senior citizen is using the application and ask them questions to find the reasons for their dissatisfaction with the application. Though this is also done even if the senior citizen likes the application because it will tell the researcher what the mobile application did right.

After doing this research my biggest take away from what I have done would be that more research is always better. The more data that I collect means that I will be able to come to conclusions and to formulate a hypothesis that I am able to back up with research. For example, one of the things that I have realized from all this research that I have been doing is that simplicity is the key for designing mobile applications. It’s also the number one solution to designing a mobile application for the elderly and I have a lot of research that I can use to back this up. Without learning how to collect large amounts of observations I would not know how to go about defending an argument. Therefore I have learned a lot from conducting this research.

Blog #2

Brian O’Leary

Dr. Coppola

December 12th, 2016

Blog #2


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.

picture1            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.
screenshot-hoteltonight-mobile-app-ad-for-engagement-and-conversion             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.

shazam-7-1-for-ios-iphone-screenshot-002            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.



Blog #1: UI Improvements for the Elderly

Brian O’Leary

Dr. Coppola

October 17th, 2016

Blog #1: UI Improvements for the Elderly

The title of this undergraduate student faculty research is “UI Improvements for the Elderly”. The point of this title is to give the viewer a simple and concrete understanding of our research. Which will lessen the time it takes for people to grasp the fundamental purpose of the conducted research. “As one ages, many changes occur that may affect hand function. Changes in coordination, visual, touch, and auditory processes in addition to changes in muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems occur with age.” The authors of this scholarly journal have explained that changes occur in the elderly due to aging. This means that the way the elderly interact with mobile apps must be different due to their aging (Hackel, et al. pg. 2).

The main purpose of this research project is to better our understanding of the complexity and difficulties that mobile apps can represent to an elderly person. “The human interfaces to most computer systems for general use have been designed, either deliberately or by default, for a “typical”, younger user” (Hutchison, et al. pg. 1). This shows how there is no thought given to the elderly when any interfaces for computers, not just mobile apps are being designed. So the elderly will have significant problems when using mobile application UIs. Which makes the main objective clear; researchers will define main problems that the elderly is facing in mobile apps and create solutions that will improve their experience and reduce any stress that is imposed on elderly citizens. The goals of this project are clear:

  1. Present elderly citizens with various different mobile applications to collect large amounts of data.
  2. Dissect the information gathered through our research to isolate key problems that the elderly citizens are being faced with.
  3. Devise solutions that will reduce the stress being imposed on elderly citizens, while also catering to the specific needs that the elderly citizens have when using mobile apps.

This project will help teach students how to do research in the field and gather information. But, most importantly the researchers will learn a great deal about the problems that a specific group of people face while using mobile apps. Which will give them valuable information that they can take with me in the future and apply to my future jobs.

When research questions come up they will attempt to answer them with application. Which means they will create examples for people of different UI’s to see if we have solved some of the different issues that they have experienced. Once they find designs that benefit the elderly they will properly document them to further improve and combine our solutions. In the end they will have done the research to make a set of guidelines to follow to improve the user experience for elderly mobile application users.


Hackel, Mary E et al “Changes in Hand Function in the Aging Adult as Determined by the Jebsen Test of Hand Function.” Physical Therapy 72.5(1992): 373-377. Web.16 Oct.   2016.

Hutchison, Douglas, Caroline Eastman, and Terry Tirrito. “Designing user interfaces for older        adults.” Educational Gerontology: An International Quarterly 23.6 (1997): 497-513.