The first phase of this application design for a retaining brain activity of long-term and short-term memory developed in 2015. It included three different enjoyable and interactive menus: a sound treatment, a social communication, and a simple game (Jang, 2015). After the user study with the prototype application, the social communication part was chosen and recreated as a new social platform application for older adults. The aim of the second phase was to provide older adults with a story base communication method helping improve their communication capability. The feature of the second application design was to use a story as a means of interactive communication with others. Also, taking into account physical decline of older adults, voice recording function was adopted. This project plans to verify the third new design based on the previous user study with second design.
According to the research, homebound older adults living without children are often faced with feelings of depression, isolation, loneliness, and disability (Coyle & Dugan, 2012). Isolation, or the deficiency of social bonds, is related to risk of health, quality or satisfaction of life or mental disease, and well-being or suffering (Coyle & Dugan, 2012; Fisk, Rogers, Charness, Czaja, & Sharit, 2009; Rowe & Kahn, 1997). Over 33.8% of females and 17.9% of males over the age of 55 and over are living alone in the U.S. (West, Cole, Goodkind, & He, 2014) and the number is expected to increase. Berkman (1995) states that social relationships combined with those within the community have an influence on an individual’s health and well-being. Those researches state that mobility allows older adults to stay active, energetic, and live independently.
In this sense, social communication through technology could play a huge role in people’s later lives, and interactive technology for social communication is expected to be an assistive method for diminishing isolation problems for older adults (Horowitz, Brennan, Reinhardt, & MacMillan, 2006). Well-developed technology can provide an opportunity for reducing the effort of developing such solutions for older adults.
This section deal with required system functions that this application must provide in order to satisfy the user’s demands and expectancies. The requirements were collected from the interviews, observations, and surveys from the last two user studies. The functional requirement format was implemented for users’ needs.
– System shall be operated on an iPad or tablet-based device.
– System shall be operated in a web environment.
– System shall have a Wi-Fi connection for tablet-based devices.
– System shall implement validated methods to facilitate security.
– System shall provide registration of users from different age groups.
– System shall have secure Log-in that stores the users’ identification information in a database through the registration mechanism with ID, Password, and fingerprint information.
– System shall be used by an individual user in any tablet-based device if user has access ID and PASSWORD.
– System shall allow users to use their fingers to click menus, scroll bars or pages, and drag menus to add functions in certain areas or to move to certain pages.
– System shall provide a function for adding location and date via GPS when users add their story with a picture or a video (where the story happened or when the video or picture was taken).
– System shall save all the stories users upload to the system’s database.
– System shall sync apps automatically.
– System shall allow users to modify their account information through the About menu.
– System shall allow users to open the video recording and camera functions in their tablet-based devices.
– System shall provide an editing application which allows finger-dragging functions for adding pictures or videos when creating a story for users.
– System shall allow users to upload, edit, and delete their own stories on their story room.
– System shall allow users to read and add comments in their friends’ story page.
– System shall capture page locations in order to help users when using back, forward, or any other buttons.
– System shall allow users to activate a voice recording function when creating and commenting stories.
– System shall have a function where a user can categorize a friend’s list in chronological order.
– System shall have a function where a user can categorize their story room in chronological order.
– System shall provide a secure chatting room for individual groups.
– System shall allow users to set up their preference such as which friend categories can read each story as well as the interface preference such as font size, contrast rate, friend categories, and story categories.
– System shall allow any user to search for their old friends with school name, year, and address.
– System shall provide a function that users can send a friend request email to their friends who are not the Flow members.
3. Design Space
During the design process, there were several moments that required compromise, where I needed to make decisions. Especially since this application is for older adults, there are many guidelines already implemented by previous researchers. Therefore, there are many considerations that go into making a better interface design for older adults.
• Prompt news vs. chronological story: This application is different than Facebook. The Facebook website has characteristics in writing the present news and stories, but the Flow application focuses on old stories, which all generations of people have in their memory and mind. When you search for the previous stories and news you previously saw on the Facebook, it is very hard to find them despite the fact that you added them in your news feeds. Facebook is focusing more on present stories. Therefore, the Flow application tried to provide categories that users can organize their old stories and the friend list in chronological order.
• User friendly design vs. attractive design: Older adults encounter a declining of sensory abilities such as vision, taste, smell, speech, hearing, and haptic abilities, along with declining of cognition such as working memory and semantic memory. Mobility is also a challenge, which impacts daily activities such as taking a bus. Therefore, designers must take account of older adults’ ability. There were five design guidelines, which were adapted for this study: Older Adults and the World Wide Web (Holt & Komlos-Weimer, 2001), Web Usability for Senior Citizens (Coyne & Nielsen, 2008), Interface Design Guidelines for Users of All Ages (Agelight, 2001), Making your Web Site Senior Friendly (Hodes & Lindberg, 2002), and Universal Usability Web Design Guidelines for the Elderly (Zhao, 2001a). Different from my expectation, designing for the target audiences of older adults required friendly interface design and structure rather than attractive design. Most of the design elements such as font size, typeface, color, background, and hierarchy were adapted as different from those for younger adults. It would be not an eye-catching design but a user-centered friendly design.
• Interactive prototype vs. simple prototype: In the first user study, Invision program was adapted for the developing prototype, but many participants wanted to see exact functionalities what would be happening when they click the menus. Therefore, in the second attempt, to provide a better understanding of the functions and interactive environment, the Axure program was adapted. Although participants used a persona already set up in the prototype, participants could see all of their interactions from page to page. Still as the prototype did not use a database, they could not save their data, but it was possible they could see more accurate functionalities.
• Rich functionality vs. usability: For more user-centered design, rich functionality is a great choice for users to be adapted with many options to choose and control. However, older adults required many considerations for design elements, hierarches and usability due to their physical and mental decline. When giving many preference choices in the application’s interface it would be good for users, but it makes the application complicated to operate. Therefore, I was focused more on simple functions, which are easy to use, and simple hierarches. In the new prototype design, the page of the uploading story was modified and easier to use.
4. The Design
User-centered design pursues improvement of human-computer interaction and communication. Every individual has unique capabilities depending on their environment, age, gender, impairment, or physical abilities. There have been many attempts to develop guidelines for understanding such differences, including design guidelines developed for designers or programmers who seek to understand target audiences. From a designer’s viewpoint, an understanding target audiences is relevant to producing more effective designs for products and services. Because older adults will have different psychological and physical distinguishing attributes than younger adults have experienced, designers must be knowledgeable about the characteristics of older adults when dealing with design or services for them. Most designs and services focus on younger generations, the main target audiences for the majority of major design and services in the world. A mostly active young population tends to request attention and fast response to their specific and clear demands. On the other hand, older adults may have individual chronic symptoms, depending on their physical and psychological conditions, so their demands vary widely. Nevertheless, as interest is increasing in the older adult industry because of rapidly growing populations, a better understanding of older adults, both physically and mentally, seems most relevant.
4-1 Design Concept, Structure, and Navigation
This is a tablet-based application and a vertical interface was adapted for better usability. 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 of 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 the 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 established Web Design Guidelines.
In the previous design, there were two primary menus (Figure 1): My Story is a space for archiving an individual’s story, and Community Chats, a space for group conversation that allows for instant messaging. My Story provides a menu through which individual users can store their private stories. They can talk about their stories both vocally and in writing and upload them to My Story. 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. While there are many similar applications for interacting with others, Flow was developed for older adults to provide them with user-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. My Story includes two subcategories My Friends and About Me.
When the user has a friend, they can initiate communication by creating a group chatting room in the Community Chats. The group chatting room includes several capabilities such as sending pictures or recorded voice. Both the room owner and members can add their 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.
In the new prototype, the menu My Friends moved to the parallel level with My Story and Community Chats. As a result, the application has three main menus. Most participants in the previous user study were confused with the menu structure. Although this application had two main menus, there was a sshortcuticon for My Friends at the bottom of the main menu for convenience, but participants were confused with the menu, My Friends being placed in the My Story and in the main menu on the bottom. Also, several feedbacks from users taken into consideration and integrated into the new menu structure.
Most participants considered the recording button to be the most complicated part in the Make Story menu due to many functions. Therefore, the recording page was modified for easy and intuitive use. When pressing any media icons such as picture, video, camera, or voice recording, users could add any medium to create their story. The process was shorter than it was before and it made it easier for participants to intuitively upload a story (Figure 3).
Another consideration was the color set. I had initially chosen orange and blue for the main menu because they are complementary colors, which is one of the recommended web guidelines (Agelight, 2001; Zhao, 2001b) (Figure 4). However, one participant commented that the orange color in the interface was fine, but it bothered her eyes for some reason. Her comment was taken into consideration, and the color set was modified for users’ comfortable and long-lasting use of the application. I made the saturation of orange color lower and a green color was implemented for the new menu of My Friends (Figure 5). There were no other major color issues.
An additional new function is implemented to provide a categorization method of stories and friends. To emphasize the difference with the Facebook website, the categorization part was strengthened. Flow app users may store their stories as a photo album with a specific timeline in chronological order. Friends are in the friend List under the categories. When users upload their story, they must select one of story categories and friend categories, which is available multiple selections, for reading permission. Also, a Setting menu was moved to the hamburger menu with several new sub-menus such as About me, Setting, How It Works, Notification, Help & Support, and Log Out.
[Figure 5. New interface design]
Several prototype programs were used in a trial to develop the Flow application. It was a challenging process to find the best program for the interactive application development. I used the Axure software to develop the application prototype. For the information architecture, the Delineato software was adapted.
4-3 User Scenarios
Personas are techniques used to help understand difficult product and service processes. Designers can experience various contexts and situations through personas under different conditions (Sears & Jacko, 2009). Four personas under different conditions were developed to aid in understanding the application process. To explore most functions of the application, each persona’s condition would be varied with respect to age, to the general amount of technology usage, and specific application usage. Persona 1 is a new user who uses e-mail and has 70 friends in a contact list. Persona 2 is a returning user who does not frequently use this application or technology and rarely uses this application, nor uses email due to a physical impairment. Persona 3 is a returning user who uses this application frequently for health consultations.
• Persona 1: Paul Smith
Paul is a 75-year-old widower. He is now looking for new friends with whom he can converse. He likes to share old stories. He was a professor for more than 30 years and had many teaching and research experiences with students. He wants to share his ideas and opinions about academic subjects with other interested individuals. He has an e-mail account and visits several websites to gather health information and read academic news online. He knows how to use a computer and the Internet, but he has no previous experience with an iPad or an iPad application. His friend, John, introduced the Flow application to him. John uses that application for conversing with family members. Table 1 indicates Paul’s task simulation based on his background.
• Persona 2: Jain Jonson
Jain is 80 years old. She has some previous experience with the Flow application, but barely uses either the application or the Internet. She lives with her husband who is 82 years old and he helps her with technological aspects frequently because she is not very familiar with current technology. She was a nurse working in the hospital for 30 years and knows a little bit about technology, but she does not use a smartphone and doesn’t often use the Internet because of her eye impairment. She is worried about her memory loss and wants to share information with caregivers or doctors through direct discussions with them; she finds this much easier than searching for information on the Internet. Table 2 indicates Jain’s task simulation based on her background.
• Persona 3: Harry Thomson
Harry is a medical doctor with many patients. He uses the Flow application to consult special patients in his cure program. Since his patients contact him about their health or symptoms, he created a new story room to contain information about his consultations with patients. Harry regularly checks patients’ progress and related activities via his cure program page. He sometimes visits a group chat room to monitor their communications or to diagnose their communication skills. His patients may also ask their questions in a chat room. Most caregivers collect these communications and send them to Harry to help with his work. He also tries to visit his patients’ story room to leave comments and encouragement in their story-telling activities. He thinks Flow is an appropriate application for his patients and best communication method for effective interaction with others.
These three cases have different scenarios related to various user-oriented purposes. When designing the application, patients’ scenarios may include specific functions that designers could easily ignore. These user scenarios contain basic processes of action or goal that users can accomplish with this application, defining the range of this application and its characteristics. Table 3 indicates Harry’s task simulation based on his background.
5. Future Technologies & Social Implications
The older adults tend to have more difficulty adapting technology than young people. If it is possible to provide verbal contents or comments rather than entering information with a keyboard, it may be easier for older adults to add their story at the interface of the social network. The Flow application has adopted a voice recording function to take into account the needs of Flow users.
Speech technology is defined as the “easiest and most natural modality of human-computer interaction (HCI)” (Teixeira et al., 2014, p.390) to give older people a chance to establish an easy connection to society activities, speech technology is used in many areas, such as voice output communication aids (VOCA), to help people who may have dysarthria or other speech impairment, speech recognition difficulties in reading, writing, programming, and environmental control. If older adults have use of an application providing a verbal communication method, this could provide healthy communication activities to be enjoyed with friends and family members while interacting with them through their story. They could also indicate someone’s feeling or health status through their voice inflections while listening to their story in their private story room. Some research studies have concluded that computer-mediated communication can help establish interpersonal relationships (Wright, 1999). In this sense, it has been verified that tablet-based applications can use speech technology as a method for interactive support. Users can upload pictures of their story along with their own voice recording and can receive comments from others with their own unique speech patterns.
Moreover, if the Flow application is able to provide personalized feedback of a verbal communication capability it may be used for medical purposes. Most older adults are concerned with diseases related to the intelligence and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Dementia or Alzheimers. The Flow application might be able to track users’ communications and provide feedback on their verbal capability. However, there would be ethical issues whether the analysis data read most conversations of users, so many users may be concerned about their privacy. In this case, we may think about an option to turn on and off the detection based on individual preference. Also, their conversation pattern itself may provide their health status. Their speech patterns would be able to provide some moments on the graphs which are lower or different compared to the other days. Current technology for detecting older adults’ voices is not very good, it would need to improve to be able to detect their voices accurately. Older adults’ voices are difficult to detect because it is often not clear.
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