Category Archives: accessibility

Almost Here: Designing Displays for Older Adults

After a long process and over a year of work, Anne’s and my book on user interface design for older adults is almost available!  The cover of our book has been finalized (shown below).  The book will be released September 21st, 2010 and will be available where fine books are sold or directly from our publisher CRC Press.

Price: $69.95, Cat. #: K10089, ISBN: 9781439801390, ISBN 10: 1439801398, Publication Date: September 21, 2010, Number of Pages: 232

We’ll give away a few copies of our book and in a future post provide an excerpt when we get permission.  Unfortunately, the book is not scheduled to be available in electronic format but we hope that will change. An ebook will also be available (thanks Peg!).

Here is our description of the book:


  • Contains state-of-the-art aging research written in an accessible format
  • Includes four chapters of worked examples that put design suggestions into practice
  • Focuses on designing for the aging population
  • Explores the “hows” and “whys” of designing for an aging population


A distillation of decades of published research, this book is a primer on age-related changes in cognition, perception, and behavior organized into meaningful principles that improve understanding. It explores the complex set of mental and physical changes that occur during aging and that can affect technology acceptance, adoption, interaction, safety, and satisfaction. The authors apply these theories in real design exercises and include specific guidelines for display examples to bridge theory and practice. It opens the way for designing with an understanding of these changes that results in better products and systems for users in all life stages.

Usability Potpourri

First, some thoughts on mobile usability from Google user experience designer Leland Rechis.

Next, decisions, decisions, decisions…when did buying gas become so difficult?

As Travis says,

At this point, why not let me use a slider to create my own mix? That’s a keyboard, touchscreen and 5 grades of gasoline. From somewhere in Florida on I-75″

(Thanks Travis Bowles).

Finally, when keyboard shortcuts go bad!  (from SvN)

Evil Interfaces

Excellent post at the EFF describing “evil interfaces“, or interfaces that may be deliberately designed to make you do things you did not intend to do:

As Conti describes it, a good interface is meant to help users achieve their goals as easily as possible. But an “evil” interface is meant to trick users into doing things they don’t want to. Conti’s examples include aggressive pop-up ads, malware that masquerades as anti-virus software, and pre-checked checkboxes for unwanted “special offers”.

Facebook and other social networking sites are used as prime examples.  Any others?

(via Slashdot)

Facetted Navigation Primer

A List Apart recently posted an excerpt from Chapter 4 of Search Patterns by Peter Morville and Jeffery Callender that presents a great description of facetted navigation (FN), a type of search interface.

FN is contrasted with just text searching (e.g., Google), taxonomies (e.g., Windows Explorer or Mac Finder), and tag-based interfaces (e.g., Flickr).  See illustrative figure below if you aren’t familiar with these types of interfaces.

Three types of search interfaces

My most recent encounter was at the online shoe store Zappos.  When looking for some shoes, the user is presented with a very dynamic FN:

Initial search (no facets selected)
Four facets selected

Personas & Windows Phone 7; Apple Mouse Fix

Two unrelated posts; both usability-related:

  • I’m sure that Microsoft has used personas in design and evaluation before, but have they advertised it so broadly–even bragged about it?  I think one of the major benefits of personas is that it focuses development (and evaluation) reducing feature creep; something that the old Windows phones were definitely guilty of [Engadget].
  • This third-party “fix” for Apple’s Mighty Mouse is simple and interesting.  Is the original mouse a case of form over function? [Switched]

Magic Mouse Fixed from on Vimeo.

(Post image from Engadget).

Exit Signs Across Cultures has a nice article on the difference between U.S. exit signs and the rest of the world, as well as a nice history of the evolution of the symbols.  Here is an excerpt to get you interested:

The text-based American exit sign has its origins in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, a blaze in a downtown Manhattan garment factory that killed 146 workers. Although signage was not primarily to blame for those fatalities—many factory doors were bolted shut in an effort to keep employees from slipping out—the exits were not clearly marked. That massive loss of life spurred the National Fire Protection Association, which had been founded in 1896 by insurance companies to develop protocols for property preservation, to take up what it called “life safety”: the business of getting people out of burning buildings intact. In the 1930s and ’40s, the NFPA developed criteria for emergency-exit signage, evaluating contrast levels and testing different sizes and stroke widths for lettering, eventually publishing standards that were adopted by state and local governments across the land.

Making virtual worlds more accessible – a new context area for Human Factors

The Consumerist blog (of Consumer Reports) posted an article on the state of California suing Sony because their online Playstation services were not accessibly designed.

Quoted from The Consumerist post:

At the crux of the plaintiff’s failed case was their contention that, because PlayStation allows people all over the world to connect and play games together via their now-repaired PlayStation Network, that virtual world constitutes an actual public accommodation. And as such, it would need to be in compliance with the Disabilities act.

In their filing, they pointed to games like World of Warcraft, which does have adjustable settings for players with impaired eyesight.

As we’ve repeated before, this won’t (and shouldn’t) be a matter of changing font size. Accessibility in virtual worlds will include rethinking:

  • input devices
  • communication methods between persons (verbal, textual, graphical, physical)
  • communications from and to the world
  • time allowed for decisions
  • sound levels and environmental noise
  • screen interface design

…just to name a few.

Concern for individual experiences in virtual space has already begun. Check out Accessing Second Life: Universal Design in a Virtual World and work by Shari Trewin and colleagues.

Tabs, tabs, and more tabs…

This post on Smashing Magazine about vertical navigation had me thinking about the book Anne and I are writing (manuscript due this Friday; panicking…I’m a 10 on the Wong-Baker scale).  In one of the chapters I discuss tab navigation.  When I was looking for a particularly bad example of the use of tabs I remembered Amazon’s website circa 2000.  Fortunately, the Wayback Machine had preserved the travesty of UI navigation for posterity:

Amazon's homepage in 2000

There is a grand total of 15 options and they are not really in alphabetical order (they seem to be grouped).  Amazon can’t be blamed–we probably didn’t know as much as we know now (I can’t believe it was a decade ago!).  But browsing the Wayback entry for Amazon’s homepage through the years certainly shows evolution and an iterative process to  reach the current Amazon navigation scheme which eschews tabs almost entirely for a cascading, vertical navigation:

Amazon's homepage today (2010)
Amazon's homepage today (2010)

Do you have any examples of particularly good or bad examples of tab navigation?

(post image:

Pain Scale Emoticons

I don’t visit the doctor frequently (less than once a year) but last year I went to the doctor and as part of the paperwork, I encountered a question about how much pain I felt (shown above).

This is the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale (which seems to be available online).  I thought this was a great way to ask about general pain severity that would be useful for people with another primary language or children–precisely why it was developed.  We humans have a very tuned sense for faces and probably emotions.  This scale takes advantage of both with caricatured faces and somewhat extreme emotional representations.

HF Potpourri

  • James Rubinstein sends along a this post about a 32 inch LCD TV presumably designed for older users.  It has features such as a dramatically simplified remote control, fewer wires, and a shut-off timer.  [Engadget]
  • Designing Devices is a relatively new blog devoted to “how and why to create devices” from Dan Saffer (author of Designing for Interaction).  I’m loving the long posts (especially the one on Controls).
  • In the “why didn’t they do this sooner” category is an Ethnography application for the iPhone called Everyday Lives (warning, link opens iTunes).  It lets you record audio, video, images and other data in the field (via UXforward).