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Relating age, digital interface competence, and exclusion

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Goodman-Deane, J 
Clarkson, PJ 


Background: Understanding users' digital interface capability is crucial for designing interfaces that they can use effectively. This is particularly relevant when designing for user populations that may include older people, where important digital technologies often have limited uptake. Previous surveys have examined levels of technology access and use across the population, but this is only part of the picture. Objective: This study aims to increase the understanding of how digital interface capability varies across the population. This can help designers to develop more inclusive interfaces, and inform policy makers and other stakeholders in their decisions. Method: A survey was conducted in 2019 with 338 adults across England and Wales. It examined a range of user characteristics including digital technology access, technology experience and attitudes towards technology. Simplified paper prototype testing was used to assess actual performance on common basic interface patterns, such as accessing a drop-down menu and returning to the previous screen via a back arrow. Results: The survey found that technology access, use, attitudes and competence all decline with age. These characteristics all have low levels in older age groups, particularly among those aged 75 and over. In particular, 44% of those aged 75+ got none of the eight basic interface tests correct. Conclusion: It is important not to assume that end users are familiar with digital interfaces and specifically interface patterns, including those in common use today. This is particularly important when designing for target groups that include older people. Particular care should be taken with patterns that are different on smartphones than on laptops, such as bringing up an onscreen keyboard. It is also important to take into account that many older people have low levels of willingness to explore an unfamiliar interface and may need clearer guidance on how to navigate an interface.



4203 Health Services and Systems, 42 Health Sciences

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International Society for Gerontechnology
European Commission Horizon 2020 (H2020) Research Infrastructures (RI) (875542)
RSSB’s TOC'16 project: Towards the Inclusive Railway