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Re: Old Age and Accessibility

From: Stephani Roberts Lincoln <stephani@MIT.EDU>
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2003 18:28:01 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

I attended a usability conference last winter at Fidelity Investments in 
Boston. One presentation was on  "Web Usability and Age: How Design Changes 
Can Improve Performance. The presenter was Ann Chadwick-Dias, Principal 
Human Factors Engineer of Human Interface Design at Fidelity.

The study compared users under 55 with those over 55 with tasks related to 
changing their financial information online (401k and stocks ). Tasks were 
performed on an 800X600 17" display. The presentation was excellent, here 
are a few things I learned -- they're from the slides and my personal notes.

Results from the original unadulterated design:
- text size did not increase success though the over 55 audience preferred 
larger text
- older users were slower to click and more cautious about clicking
- older users spend more time reading text and instructions
- they have difficulty reading text on screen
- they were more likely to click non-link items (i.e. bullets, headings, 
icons, etc. but sometimes didn't click even when they saw the "hand" 
indicating that something was a link)
- have difficulty with window management (pop-ups)
- have difficulty with mouseover navigation

Results from the revised design:

Note: This new design added text to explain icons, made icons links, 
simplified choices, reduced unnecessary text, created a my profile page, 
added concise instructions, larger fonts for account totals, added totals 
to top and bottom of page.

- the 2nd version improved the overall usability for both young and old 
audiences (increased task performance)
- older users clicked significantly faster than in first design study
- use of action words appeared to compel older users to click with more 
confidence (action terms such as "go to 401K" or "view 401K"  vs the simple 
"401K" helped users understand that these were links)
- the more clear the resulting action for the link, the more likely older 
users will click it (and the faster they will click it)
- the more the older users have a positive experience with a site, the more 
they'll use it and the less anxiety they'll have. KEEP your visual design 
and layout STABLE...don't introduce needless changes.
- regardless of level of computer experience, older users continue to have 
lower performance than their younger counterparts.

Some Suggestions from her findings:
- use a hover color for links (give user feedback)
- user a larger target for clicking (no small images)
- keep design simple and stable, don't introduce lots of changes, be 
consistent - see AARP.org (older wiser wired)
- older users don't understand web terms: window, login, link, URL, menu 
bar, toolbar,  minimize, go back, home etc.
- do NOT use web terms without defining them
- have motor and vision issues to keep in mind
- don't use unnecessary text because they will read ALL of it!
- even though it does not increase performance provide a way to increase 
the fonts, like using a visible button to change the text size or use 
scalable fonts. (they PREFER larger text)
- older users have difficulty clicking on  text links because the target is 
too small.
- use images to increase the target size of links
- be consistent with links: ex. blue underline, red mouseover, purple visited.
- increase redundancy in links by linking text AND bullets, this increases 
the chances that an older user will reach their target
- keep information in simple bite-sized chunks so users do not have to read 
it all and remember it from one page view to the next

In a third test Ms. Chadwick-Dias found that older users were less trusting 
than younger users. However, it was argued that this could have been 
related to the content -- they were asked to make changes to their investments.

I hope this helps.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Stephani Roberts Lincoln
Web Accessibility Specialist


At 04:45 PM 9/29/2003 +0100, you wrote:
>Dear all,
>I wondered if anyone had any links or research information about 
>accessibility and usability issues for older users.
>Peter Rainger ( <mailto:p.f.rainger@sussex.ac.uk>p.f.rainger@sussex.ac.uk )
>Research Officer
>TechDis @ Sussex
>Sussex School of Education
>The Sussex Institute
>University of Sussex
>Falmer, Brighton
>BN1 9QQ
>Tel: 01273 873600
>"Inclusion through Innovation"

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Stephani Roberts Lincoln
Web Accessibility Specialist


Phone: 617.253.0866 | Cell: 617.852.3100 | Home: 617.489.6886
Received on Monday, 29 September 2003 18:31:20 UTC

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