What can be easier than to design an application for teenagers? Make it possible to stream party videos, turn faces into cute piggy snouts, follow celebrities – and voila! You are top of App Store now.
When it comes to senior users, it’s not that easy anymore. When it comes to healthcare apps for senior users, it becomes twice as challenging.
A properly designed healthcare app may firmly entrench itself in the hearts of elderly users, who are usually much more loyal than younger ones. Besides, if the application is really good, it may receive recognition of the esteemed medical organizations or specialists. In this case, its chances to step out against the competitors are even higher, as far as elderly people tend to rely heavily on authoritative opinions.
Apparently, the task is in no way a no-brainer. Besides the obvious generation gap between developers and the target audience, there are also inevitable transformations our body and mind undergo while ageing, and they also have to be taken into account.
TYPICAL SOFTWARE DEVELOPERS PITFALLS
Below is the list of the main pitfalls developers may stumble upon when designing a healthcare application for senior patients.
- Old habits die hard
Developers should never forget that elderly patients normally have little or no experience with apps and gadgets. In this regard, it is a good idea to try and make this first acquaintance as painless as only possible.
One of the ways may be to give “old devices” older people got used to long ago a new lease of life. For instance, use a TV for video chats with a doctor. Older people tend to rely on their background and previous experience when trying something new. Thus they feel more in control of the situation, and less concerned that something may suddenly go wrong.
Another good idea is to make an application interface look like an old faithful device. And here we proceed to the next point.
- Where are the buttons?!
To look at a solution with the eyes of those it is intended to is always a good idea. Those features that seem natural for the generation of digital natives may not look so self-evident for older people. Even a scroll bar or a search box may easily put them off guard.
Unintuitive interfaces look confusing and increase the time older people need to make a decision what button to press. However, the problem may be solved quite easily.
What elderly people definitely do not need:
- Icons without caption
any of them simply do not make sense to elders. The text will help clarify what each application is meant for.
- Too many functions
Such functions as Calendar, Notes, Reminder, etc. do not make sense to elders either. They are pretty much satisfied with their paper versions, and electronic substitutes do not bring any relevant benefits to them.
What elderly people do need:
- Icons with large captions
It is a good idea to use bright (but not annoying) contrasting colors and large enough fonts to make icons of different applications clearly distinguishable from each other.
- Real benefits
Not substitutes for the things that work perfectly in their original versions (again, we can mention Calendar and Notes), but something that cannot be achieved by any other means. For instance, video chats with old lads living in a faraway land.
- Years are passing by
We all are not getting younger in the course of time. Irreversible changes in elderly people’s organisms exert significant influence on the way they interact with the world. They include not only declining of the vital functions such as sight and hearing. Slight transformations that are not always noticeable at first sight also take place; for example, the ability to differentiate between the shades of one color suffers a lot.
ROAD TO SUCCESS
In this regard, developers should build the solution on the following principles.
- Larger is better
All types of text (titles, captures, explanatory text), interface elements (icons and buttons), screen size – all this should be adequately big to cater for the elderly people’s declining sight.
- Adjustable interface
Give users the ability to adjust the size of font, the color of background, etc. They would definitely appreciate it.
- Prolonged reaction time
Allow users a bit more time to make a decision what icon to press, or what option to choose. As we grow older, the ability to react quickly deteriorates. However, it is supplanted by the precise attention to every detail, so elderly people are totally able to handle any kind of situation. They just need a bit more time.
When designing a healthcare application for senior patients, it is crucial to hold in mind that elderly people have specific needs that should be satisfied. Intuitive interface, noticeable and clearly distinguishable elements, explanatory text and no redundant functions will make up a perfectly working combination that has every chance to “go off”.
At the same time, scientists report that quite many elderly people consider too obviously “old” application interface a bit offensive and ageist. It is a misconception that elderly people do not want to use technologies at all. They actually do, as well as they do want to keep up with the rapidly advancing world. They just want it to be “digestible”. So keeping the right balance of “too teenage” – “too old” is probably one of the major things to keep in mind.