We had an enjoyable and thought-provoking day with 16 participants
from academia. We were also privileged to have along three representatives
of the older population, from the community internet cafe at Connah's
Quay. They helped to enliven and ground the discussions with their
humorous and down-to-earth descriptions of what it is like for an
older person trying to learn to use a computer from scratch.
Various discussion questions were posed during the day, including:
Who are "older people"? How do we divide them into meaningful
groups for study?
- Useful definitions of older people depend on what you're studying
- Chronological age is less useful than factors like social
circumstances, cognition ability and fitness levels. These are
often related to chronological age but not necessarily so, as
we all start at different baselines
- There is a tendency to have more women (as they are more socially
connected) and more professional "types". We need to try
harder to recruit to reflect the population as a whole.
- One good way to recruit is through community organisations.
There may be a slow start, but usually there's eventually
a snowball effect as people tell others.
What methods are most effective for considering older people?
- It is important to talk to older people directly. However,
it may be hard for them to generate ideas from scratch and they
may not always know what they want. Therefore, it's better to
ask them about their experiences and get them to improve on
What helps older people to have a voice?
- It is important for them to have a sense of ownership,
feeling that their input is valued and used. So let them see
the results of their feedback and keep them involved throughout
the process, not on a one-off basis.
- It is also important that they feel comfortable, e.g. making
the research activity into a social event
How can designers consider older users when working under
- If resources are limited, sometimes you need to reduce the scope
of a study (particularly research studies)
- Findings need to be disseminated better to industry, so that
existing findings are more readily available and don't need
to be replicated
- If user involvement really isn't possible (e.g. due to copyright/IP
issues), then methods like personas and guidelines can be helpful
to help designers keep the users and their needs in mind.
We also conducted a design exercise. Participants were divided
into groups, each of which was given a set of cards describing various
possible design and user methods. They were asked to choose the most
appropriate methods for different parts of the design process. For
each part of the design process, they also picked one method in
particular, and expanded on how they would use it and the kind of
findings they would expect to get from it.
Participants seemed to find the exercise engaging, and particularly
liked the use of the method cards. The exercise got the participants thinking
about design methods and user methods and how they could be used, and
was a prelude to some of the discussions described above.
The groups came up with similar but not identical sets of methods,
which varied between stages of design:
Back to the workshop page
- For requirements gathering, there was an emphasis on real
contact with users, although expert opinion was also highly valued.
- For early concept generation, mind mapping and storyboards were
considered important, as was feedback from users on ideas
(perhaps presented using storyboards, etc)