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RAA 1 (CGT 512): A study of Web usability for older adults seeking online health resources

Becker S.A. . A study of Web usability for older adults seeking online health resources. In ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Inter- act., 11(4):387–406 (2004).

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to report on how older individuals have trouble with the internet as their age increases. The researchers wanted to find what features were hardest for people with failing vision, motor skills, literacy, etc. to use. Their overarching goal was to show how bad web design can have a big impact on the elderly population

Methods

The authors did a usability test to assess how the site’s “features” affected elderly individuals. The researchers evaluated 125 websites total: 50 state government (.gov) Web sites, 50 commercial (.com) Web sites composed of 25 health-related sites and 25 online newspapers, and 25 nonprofit (.org) health-related Web sites (Becker, 2004). Then the researchers had a rater, knowledgeable with the NIA/NLM and homepage guidelines, complete a usability assessment for the websites selected.

Main Findings

After concluding the usability test, the researchers found 93% of the sites surveyed used very small font on homepage content. This affects negatively a good portion of older people. They also found 24% of sampled sites pose a usability barrier in terms of site navigation. Less than 15% of all sites offer translation, which can directly affect the amount of elderly people able to read the content.

Analysis

This paper makes valid points. I liked how the researchers identified the things that elderly people like and things they have trouble with. For example, elderly people have trouble with drop-down menus as there is a great amount of precision needed to get the mouse over a small area. I think this article did a good job, hopefully the rater was good, at showing where a lot of current websites fail today. With baby boomers starting to hit their senior years, we need to start developing solutions that will fit the needs of an ever-growing part of our population, at least for another 50 years tops.

 

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