Many older adults wish to gain competence in using a computer, but many application interfaces are perceived as complex and difficult to use, deterring potential users from investing the time to learn them. Hence, this study looks at the potential of ‘familiar’ interface design which builds upon users’ knowledge of real world interactions, and applies existing skills to a new domain. Tools are provided in the form of familiar visual objects, and manipulated like real-world counterparts, rather than with buttons, icons and menus found in classic WIMP interfaces.
This paper describes the formative evaluation of computer interactions that are based upon familiar real world tasks, which support multitouch interaction, involves few buttons and icons, no menus, no right-clicks or double-clicks and no dialogs. Using an example of an email client to test the principles of using “familiarity”, the initial feedback was very encouraging, with 3 of the 4 participants being able to undertake some of the basic email tasks with no prior training and little or no help. The feedback has informed a number of refinements of the design principles, such as providing clearer affordance for visual objects. A full study is currently underway.