M2: Problems

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1. Overview
In the previous study, there was a user study with 11 participants over 60 years old recruited from retirement communities, churches, and fitness centers via flyers, word-of-mouth, and personal contacts. This study is following from the previous user study and in the conclusion, there were several user’s requests and needs. Therefore, this milestone will contain those study results as a tool to understand the problem and need of the target users.

2. User Study
This user study conducted between August 2016 and November 2016. It used several different research methods: survey, interviews, and observations to try to understand more closely with older adults. A research team visited participants’ homes and conducted the user study in a comfortable environment. They conducted the study with the prototype on an iPad and it took less than an hour.

2-1 Participants
Among participants, five were female and six were male. There were three coupled participants and five single participants. All participants were well-educated college graduates and nine had advanced graduate degrees. They were all married and were living with their spouses and five were over 70 years old.

2-2 Design Structure
The application has two functions: My Story and Community Chats [Figure 1]. One of the functions My Story is a space where an individual user is able to archive their private stories both vocally and in writing with their old photos and it includes privacy settings controlling who can see their posts. One picture might be enough to take them back to a time where they recall vivid memories and remember people with whom they spent time in the past. This story might be part of a private archive of their autobiography and could also be a stepping-stone via which they can interact with others. Users can make friend relationships by request, searching and sending such requests to their friends or family members via messages to users of the Flow application or via email to new users. While there are many similar applications for interacting with others, Flow was developed for older adults to provide them with individual-centered service in which they can control their individual stories and allow people in a specific group to see their stories. Older adults particularly may worry about security, so several functions, including membership, will be available to protect their privacy. Users can access the application by logging in and then interacting with friends.When the user has a friend, room for group conversation can be established in the Community Chats, a menu for instant chatting with others. Community Chats is a space that group of people can interact together while protected and isolated from the public. The group chatting room includes several functions such as sending pictures or recorded voice. The room owner and members can add their own friends to the conversation. The purpose of Community Chats is to create a closed conversational space for older adults who may be concerned about privacy in open communication space. Users can create a chatting room with virtually any purpose and usage.Furthermore, as a featured function, a voiced instruction was adapted informing users about the detailed certain function of the icons or menus in each page to help users and based on the web design guidelines, a male voice was used.

[Figure 1. Application design architecture]


2-3 Application Interface Design
The application was designed based on several web design guidelines including font size, color combination, layout or style, icons, and sound. Most design guidelines are for web development, necessitating some limitations in adapting these guidelines to tablet interface design. For example, tablet devices do not provide additional options via a double-click function or a right mouse click function, but interactive functions such as drag and drop are provided.

The interface design used several design guidelines aimed at web users who are older adults. Most design guidelines have been developed based on “Universal design that takes into account as many people as possible experiencing products and services in any circumstances” (Newell & Gregor, 2002, p.4). The iPad device’s resolution was different from that of the usual web interface. The iPad model was an Apple iPad 3rd generation with a display size a 9.7-inch LED, and the screen interface had a 2048-by-1536-pixel resolution at 264 dpi. Because of the different resolution of the

iPad, the font size was much smaller than for usual web interface design. The usual web interface uses 72 dpi and the iPad uses 264 dpi, so iPad pixels are much denser, making font size much smaller than those in the usual web design environment. Except for the font size, most of the design followed design guidelines.


[Figure 2. Flow design]

For easy recognition of differences in the menus, complementary color sets were set up in the application, the Login part in green, My story in orange, and Community chats in blue [Figure 2]. Three columns were used to make effective use of space and to develop an effective hierarchy structure in the vertical interface. All pages used three column grids in a consistent menu structure. The top grid area is for each page’s title, the back icon is for returning to the main page, and the edit menu is for functional preference adjustment. The middle grid area is for the menu is changed in the detail page of the My story and the Community chats because of the related functions.

2-4 Study Methods
Mixed qualitative and quantitative methods were adopted because these provide comprehensive viewpoints to be able to better understand target audiences (Barg et al., 2006; Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, & Turner, 2007). The data collected through the survey, interview, and observation, and both interviews and observations were analyzed by watching the videos.

Field observation: The goal of using observation was to figure out the participant’s general behaviors, which allowed the research team to observe the reactions of the participants in the specific situation. The conductor helped when they asked about the use of the application and observed what they were doing with the application on iPad.

Interview: The interview is a qualitative method, which features gathering various opinions from participants, both positive and negative, depending on their experiences. The conductor asked about an initial experience of the application prototype such as color, menu location, type of instruction, and usability.

Survey: A survey research one of the quantitative methods is an effective way to gather general opinions from a large sample. Participants were asked preferences of the application’s design color and their personal preferences such as frequency of use of technology.


3. Findings and Discussion

3-1 General findings
Preference with respect to computer use was divided among three selections: desktop or laptop, smartphone, and tablets. Participants were more comfortable using tablets than smartphones. Although most participants had little experience with tablets, they felt comfortable when using them because of screen features that allowed them to use their fingers rather than a mouse. However, the greatest preference among the three options was desktop or laptop computers.

Most participants kept in touch with their friends or family by phone or email more than 8 times per week and met people in person more than 8 times per week through direct meetings in person. However, they had a negative opinion of social media. Most participants had experience using a computer but were not familiar with social media. They said that social media is too open spaced and complicated to use; they participated from an entirely observer position, just gathering news of family members or friends there.

3-2 Interface design for communication
Speech technology may provide easy connection to social activities. While using the study’s application storytellers sometimes talked about personal stories and global issues using pictures, and even though this does not provide direct interaction between storytellers and audiences, each storyteller’s voice can convey emotion and character, thus allowing audiences to feel closer to the storytellers and share experiences with them. Since digital storytelling uses voice as a central method for telling a story, the recording voice function was adapted to the application.

Despite many research studies have shown that voice-based methods are easier for older adults to use (Dickinson & Hill, 2007; K. Wright, 1999), eight participants (73%) in the second interview said they would rather use typing due to its accuracy and because it allowed enough time to review their responses. Two participants preferred to use writing functions in the second interview, but changed their minds in the last usability survey, so half of the participants thought positively about the voice recording function by the end of the study. Since most participants had advanced degrees they might be somewhat familiar with writing from their own past research activity. Most participants agreed that a recording method would be easy, but felt that using a recording function might imply they had a physical impairment. Some participants said, “I am fine with writing now. I may need this recording function later.” This could be one of the reasons they might think a recording function would not be a comfortable way to upload a story.

Although there were many errors and struggles while operating the application and searching for the menus, judging from observations participants exhibited positive attitudes toward the application and its somewhat complicated forms. Quantitative data indicate that it is a helpful application since most questions received response values greater than 3. However, qualitative data indicated that the interface application needs improvement for use by older adults because most participants had to ask for the following step, and only three participants could complete the user study without asking questions. Interviews and observations also suggested there are problematic portions that should be modified. Wright (2000) et al., effectively described the reason for obtaining different results in quantitative and qualitative data of this study, stating that despite having troubles when operating a touch-based device, their preference for voice recording over type writing increased along with a preference for touch-based devices following iPad use.

An additional finding in the study was that most participants had no previous iPad experience and originally were somewhat negative in their thinking about touch-based tablets. They thought their heavy fingers and dry skin might possibly inhibit their use of an iPad, but our observation was that the problems were due more to how they use their fingers in pressing the screen and how long they maintained pressure on the screen. More experience in using a tablet would probably quickly solve such problems.

[Table 1. Survey questions related to communication: scale (1-5)]

3-3 Information Design for Navigation

This application has several multilevel hierarchies within the menu functions and the biggest problematic aspect was menu location. The majority of participants said that most icon locations were sufficient, but the observation results were somewhat different from their answers to the question. The most problem was how to find the Back icon to return to the main page. Most participants expected to encounter an arrow for returning to the previous page, but instead of using the word Back, the application used Cancel to go to the main page. Many websites use the word Cancel to mean close the current page and return to the previous page, but for older adults, the icon’s action on cancel had a different meaning; most thought cancel meant to remove the page. Due to memory decline, it might be harder for older adults to change behavior through re-education, so attempting behavior modification in this way is not recommended. Most functions should be based on intuition. Most older adults do not use this kind of application often and it is normal for them to forget its functions. The words used with older adults should have meanings or present cues consistent with prior assumptions.

[Figure 3. Recording area]

The recording area has a lot of functioning buttons and this was the reason most participants hesitated to press buttons. According to observed behaviors during the study, the participants stayed in the area for a long time in an effort to find the record button, to upload the button, and to leave comments. The icon for the microphone was confused with the recording button with a red circle. Most participants reacted to icons with a specific shape that uses less cognition function such as the microphone icon. Therefore, intuitive design development is very important. Some participants said that if there were no microphone icon they would consider the red button to be the recording button.

Another reason why they could not recognize the recording button was that there was no printed word to describe the function of the icon. The microphone icon was intuitively recognizable and most participants thought that the microphone would be the button for recording. There were several participants who pressed the words “Audio comment” for the recording button. They reacted to the words instead of icons because they thought the words Audio comment meant recording. Several design guidelines for older adults discuss imprinting icons with words that describe the icons. It is a more efficient way to help older adults have confidence in their choices.

Although participants were sure they could easily use this application later, when asked to use the application once again they still struggled to find menu locations. This would be the reason that designers should make any application as simple and easy to use as possible.

3-4 Recommendation for Usable Design
Several interesting factors derived from the user study that should help designers develop a better application. Although the user study was conducted with a small sample population, similar answers, opinions, and suggestions have made it clear that there are specific considerations that designers should be aware of when designing applications for older adults. Most design elements should be intuitive, quickly recognizable, and require minimal attention.

Structure: Provide intuitive feeling with a simple structure and large icons. The findings from the study suggest that designs should have parallel menu structures with only one deep hierarchy. Providing enough space in the design elements permits older adults to use a menu intuitively without requiring unnecessary cognitive ability. It was not helpful for older adults to provide a shortcut with different menu hierarchies. This was problematic and participants were confused and struggled to understand the menu functions.

Words: In the study, several common words in the application industry were used in the application (e.g., cancel for going back to the main menu). Since this application attempts to develop a service for most generations and be easily accessible to older adults, common word usage and easy approaches are recommended.

Icons: Most icons should include a word that is an expression of the icon. The icon shape was the first recognizable cue for older adults, and a word added to the icon provides confidence in their choice. Color is a secondary cue for recognizing the function of an element. Although color can provide a recognizable strong cue of meaning, the color itself cannot describe the meaning of the icon, so recognizable shape would be the first priority condition for the icon.

Many studies have reported that older adults tend to overestimate their performance (Ford et al., 1988). A given question delivered in several different ways may help determine actual behavior. An older adults’ answer of “Fine” may not really mean “Fine,” so researchers must observe their behavior carefully. For this reason, multiple-user study methods would be appropriate for the study of older adults by producing different perspectives for helping to understand older adults’ experiences and preferences more effectively.


4. Limitation
This study notes that participants were highly educated: nine out of the eleven participants held Ph.D. degrees and had a laptop computer at home with Wi-Fi service, meaning that their similar educational backgrounds did not provide sufficiently general statistics applicable to older adults. Therefore, the results should not be generalized beyond this study. There was also a problem with the browser in the iPad; a few participants were not able to use an instruction function in the application. Moreover, although the application prototype was interactive, many of its functions were limited; thus, participants could not have the same experience they might have if it were an actual fully-functioning device. This limitation particularly diminished the chance of observing how participant bias might affect the recording voice function. Although this was a functional problem more than an interface itself, it made users feel uncomfortable using the application and may have affected the study’s results.

Finally, this user interface study had only eleven participants and, even though both genders were represented, results for this small sample size cannot be reliably generalized to an overall population of older adults.


5. Conclusion
This study includes a newly recommended design methodology for future research. Based on observations, suggestions, and opinions regarding user interface design, a new interface can be developed. Also, specific function’s usability should be conducted to adapt better application with interface for older adults such as the voice recording function, the uploading story function, the instruction part, and the icon shape with a word, or the icon image shape without a word. To develop a better application, each part should be confirmed by a user study.


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Dickinson, A., & Hill, R. L. (2007). Keeping in touch: Talking to older people about computers and communication. Educational Gerontology, 33(8), 613–630.

Ford, A. B., Folmar, S. J., Salmon, R. B., Medalie, J. H., Roy, A. W., & Galazka, S. S. (1988). Health and Function in the Old and Very Old. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 36(3), 187–197. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.1988.tb01799.x

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Newell, A. F., & Gregor, P. (2002). Design for older and disabled people – where do we go from here ? Universal Access in the Information Society, 2(1), 3–7. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-002-0031-9

Wright, K. (1999). The communication of social support within an on-line community for older adults: A qualitative analysis of the SeniorNet community. Communication Quarterly, 47(4), S33.

Wright, P., Bartram, C., Rogers, N., Emslie, H., Evans, J., Wilson, B., & Belt, S. (2000). Text entry on handheld computers by older users. Ergonomics, 43(6), 702–716.