Many Apps designers are taught to work to a principle of “Design for all” meaning that the best apps are designed to be used by everyone. Sometimes though I think it can seem likes those “One size fits all” clothes. Which normally means unless you’re large the garment swamps you – it has to be big enough that anyone can get it in. “One size fits all” really means “One size fits no-one”.
At Memjo when we look at App design we realised “Design for all” doesn’t work if you’re designing for someone who’s never used a computer, tablet or mobile phone before. Many apps are designed around “exploratory learning”. Which is fine if you’re happy to click away randomly to find out how something works, the way a child will when presented with a tablet. But if you’ve never used a computer and you already find it intimidating before you start?
Designers who’ve been working on apps for many years find it hard to take in that there are people who don’t know three little horizontal lines indicates a menu, an X means close and a little house icon will take you back to a home screen. But when I’ve tested apps on people living with dementia who’ve never touched a computer they can quite happily get to grips with something that is designed to guide them as they use it.
Isn’t this the the whole point of user-centred design? You’re supposed to design for the user, not to allow designers to show off they’re latest use of animation?
I’ve recently been reading the research published at HCI (Human Computer Interaction) Conference held in Las Vegas in July 2018. There’s actually a whole stream of research from this conference around “Human Aspects of IT for the Aged Population” which shows that when you design something that guides the user to show where they can click or touch the screen, and what will happen when they do so, then anyone can understand and use a mobile or tablet computer, without needing to remember how to navigate around, and be reliant on complex gestures such as pinching or swiping, that may require too high a level of dexterity