User-Centered Design of a Mobile Storytelling Application for Older Adults


Designing for older adults is different from designing for younger people. Many of the older adults have multiple slight disabilities, been difficult to design a system who cares about the set of different older adults and their different set of slight disabilities.

Older adults may face a reduction in personal contact mainly due to the loss of loved ones, mobility difficulties or geographical separation. Online social networks can be very important for older adults that often live far from their family and friends, helping them to stay connect with each other thus avoiding the isolation and solitude. Despite its benefits, older adults are still far from online social networks, because the user interfaces are not
adapted to them or because their friends are not on the web social networks that the older adults can use.

Nowadays there are a wide range of mobile devices with web connection. Therefore the users are able to chose the devices that best suits them, considering its portability, screen size, input method, appearance and even device costs. This study documents the analysis, design and evaluation of a mobile web application designed with older adults characteristics in mind and that connects to a popular social network.

User-Centered Design methodology was used to focus ourselves on older adults’ specificities and therefore to create an adequate product that is easy to use by them. In this methodology, user research was used to understand the target audience of the project. User observations were done and a package of cultural probes were delivered to some older adults to gather their requirements and know more about their needs and characteristics.
Then, low-fidelity prototypes of the storytelling application were created and iterated a number of times with feedback from user based evaluation. That evaluation was done through usability tests, performed with older adults in a day care center in Foco, Boavista (Porto, Portugal). Finally, according to the low-fidelity prototypes and its specifications, a colleague responsible for the development produced a working prototype. The working prototype was used to do a final evaluation of the application with the older adults in the day care center. The final evaluation was performed using two different mobile devices: one iPad (tablet) and one HTC mobile phone.


Author: Pedro Tenreiro

Type: MSc thesis

Partner: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto

Year: 2011