What I’m Working On/Reading: July 2019

It’s been a while since I posted, but this is the first time I’ve had some free time to sit down and think about things I want to say or share.

When I did usability testing for the redesign of the Boston Public Library website last year, we found that seniors had the most difficulty using the new website. At the time, we didn’t have time to explore much into it. We made the edits we needed based on their feedback, but I wanted to revisit this. Seniors tend to be the demographic group with the most difficulty with technology, and changes. However, they’re also a significant part of the population. I want to make sure as we look forward, we aren’t leaving them behind. Now, we finally have the time to work on this project, so here are a few things I’m reading as I think about how I want to approach this.

Usability Testing, a blog on usability testing (so strange, right?) has a post with tips on doing usability testing with seniors. The article is titled “Involving older adults in design of the user experience: Inclusive design.” This article, of all of the ones I’m reading, I think will be most helpful in guiding my project. It covers how best to recruit participants, how to screen participants on tech savviness, how to schedule sessions with them, things to remind them of before usability sessions, and some tips for working with them during sessions.

In 2013, the Nielsen Norman Group published a post called “Seniors as Web Users.” Their post includes information on behavioral tendencies (as determined by research) of seniors when using the internet. One of their observations is that moving interface elements, such as pull-down menus can be problematic for seniors who don’t have steady control of the mouse. They also found seniors are twice as likely to give up on a usability task, and are less likely to try new methods to find information.

UX planet wrote an article with some tips for designing for “the elderly” (their term, not mine). While most of their tips are similar to other tips I’ve read on usability and seniors, I found their section on choosing a device to be most interesting. They suggest using tablets because older people are the largest users of tablets, and they perform better using touch interfaces. This is because finger tapping declines later than other motor skills.

Smashing magazine published an article that is an expanded version of the article above from UX Planet. It’s called “Designing for the Elderly: Ways Older People Use Digital Technology Differently.” An interesting takeaway was to make sure your content doesn’t assume someone’s life stage. That might seem easy to avoid, but one senior was asked a common security question when signing up for an Apple ID: What was the model of your first car? She said she had no idea, because it was so long ago. This question assumes you can remember what your first car model was. No doubt some seniors will be able to remember, but this anecdote reminds us to think about what we expect a person to know, and how that may change. Another interesting fact was that seniors have a good attention span, and are “methodical” in their behavior, which can make it easier to teach them new things.

Lastly, Usability Geek’s article called “UX Design Thinking From A Senior Citizen’s Perspective” discusses many of the elements mentioned in the aforementioned articles. Some things they mention, are to avoid making users scroll at all. They also mention that keeping breadcrumb links at the top helps users get used to where things are located within your site, and how to find them again.

These are just the first sources I’ve been reading as I figure out what I want to know from our seniors, and what methods I intend to use to get that information.


  1. Adiseshiah, E. G. (2017, June 26). UX Design Thinking From A Senior Citizen’s Perspective. Retrieved July 9, 2019, from https://usabilitygeek.com/ux-design-thinking-senior-citizen-user/
  2. Campbell, O. (2015, February 05). Designing For The Elderly: Ways Older People Use Digital Technology Differently. Retrieved July 9, 2019, from https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/02/designing-digital-technology-for-the-elderly/
  3. Chisnell, D. (2011, February 28). Involving older adults in design of the user experience: Inclusive design. Retrieved from http://usabilitytestinghowto.blogspot.com/2011/02/involving-older-adults-in-design-of.html
  4. Nielsen, J. (2013, May 28). Seniors as Web Users. Retrieved July 8, 2019, from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/usability-for-senior-citizens/
  5. Spire Digital. (2019, February 28). Accessible Design: Designing for the Elderly – UX Planet. Retrieved July 9, 2019, from https://uxplanet.org/accessible-design-designing-for-the-elderly-41704a375b5d

One thought on “What I’m Working On/Reading: July 2019

  1. Pingback: Usability Testing With Citizens Ages 55+ – Dhruti Kari Bhagat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s