Creating Mobile Gesture-based Interaction Design Patterns for Older Adults: a study of tap and swipe gestures with Portuguese seniors

The focus of this research is to further the understanding of gesture based interaction on smartphones for older adults. The recent proliferation of touchscreen devices, such as smartphones, and the few amount of research regarding this form of interaction for older adults, are our main motivations for carrying-out this research project.

The research approach adopted in this work is divided in four phases of testing with older adult users. The first phase includes a study of the discoverability of existing smartphone gestures for older adults, as well as the exploration of the possibility of creating a novel user-defined gesture set with this group of users. Our findings revealed that existing gestures do not seem to be easily discoverable, or immediately usable by older adults. Where in most cases, the majority of participants would not have been able to solve the tasks we gave them on existing smartphones. Accordingly, the second phase of research aimed to assess if we could effectively teach current gestures to older adults. In order to do so, we created a set of contextual animated tutorials that demonstrate the use of gestures to solve common smartphone tasks. Our findings revealed that older adult participants were in fact capable of learning, and effectively making use, of tap and swipe gestures. Next, the third phase of research aimed to assess adequate touch-target sizes, and adequate spacing sizes between adjacent-targets, for both tap and swipe gestures. Accordingly, our results demonstrate that, for tap gestures, older adults’ performance was best with targets larger than 14 mm square, while for swipe gestures, performance was best for targets larger than 17.5 mm square. Which reveals that the end intention of a movement — whether to finalise in a tap or swipe — influences older adults’ performance in target selection, where larger target sizes are needed for swipe, than for tap. In addition, our results also revealed that spacing between adjacent-targets does not seem to have a significant influence on participants’ performance. Finally, the objective of the fourth, and final phase of research was to evaluate the influence of targets’ onscreen locations, and swipe gesture orientation (e.g., left-to-right, top-to-bottom), on older adults’ acquisition of tap and swipe targets. Our findings reveal that for tap, older adult participants’ performance was best toward the centre, right edge, and bottom right corner of the smartphones’ display. While for swipe, participants’ performance was better for horizontal swipe targets placed toward the bottom half of the display, and for vertical swipe targets performance was best for targets placed toward the right half of the smartphone’s display. In addition, our results demonstrate that the orientation of a swipe gesture does not seem to have a significant influence on participants’ performance.

Finally, we documented the main findings of our research in the form of interaction design patterns and constructed a website to host them, with the intention of making our results more easily and readily available to other practitioners involved in creating smartphone interfaces for older adults.


For any additional information regarding this project, please contact us using the inquiries form.