University of Padova


Eldy Usability

Project Description

Although new communication and interaction technologies are progressively creeping in our everyday life and pervasively influencing it, elderly are often excluded from the benefit provided by these technologies because of their inexperience in using them; the consequence of this exclusion is the so-called digital divide. More than 20% of the Italian population is over 65 but only 1% of it approaches and uses internet technologies . Differently, in USA 22% of elderly people (over 65) use the Internet regularly, as reported by the “Pew Internet and American Life Project“.

In particular, Internet is still inadequate to elderly users abilities : to overcome this phenomenon the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) proposes the goal of accessibility as a fundamental prerequisite for resource sharing.

Eldy” is a software suite that allows navigation on the internet and basic interactions with a computer; its interface has been specifically designed to help elderly people in accomplishing the most common tasks. Eldy has been developed by a no-profit organization (“Eldy Onlus Association”) and is freely available from the official web-site. The software, developed using Java, aims at facilitating the usage of the internet for communication and data management; in particular, it provides an e-mail and an embedded chat service, a web-browser with and common and easy to use functionalities, a word-processing and an images management application; some additional services, such as weather forecasts, are also available. In Eldy letters and buttons are bigger than usual, an evident colour contrast between text and background has been adopted and unnecessary buttons removed, consequently providing facilitations to ease the fruition of the interface.

Eldy interface Eldy interface

Work Description

Within the “Eldy” project, HTLab was involved in a usability evaluation of the software; usability analysis has been run comparing performances of elderly people and young participants using Eldy and WindowsXP (using Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook) to accomplish the same tasks such as:

– writing a text
– writing an e-mail
– looking for a specified web-site
– looking for an on-line newspaper
– looking for the weather forecast

We chose to compare Eldy with WindowsXP interface considering that, while Eldy works with the goal of simplifying the interaction with a PC, Windows is the most spread final user Operating System in the world; thereby, the comparison of these two different systems could provide a good idea of Eldy efficacy. We selected participants with at least a basic previous experience with a PC and Microsoft Windows; for this reason, a better performance was expected in Eldy rather than in Windows for elderly participants, while we expected this difference to disappear in young people performance.

An old person using Eldy An old person using Eldy

The evaluation has been performed through methods commonly used in human-computer interaction research:

– eye movements recording, in particular gaze time
– mouse-logs
– cognitive walkthrough.

Gaze time is the time spent in fixations within a specific area (Rayner, 1998; Henderson & Hollingworth, 1999). Considering that information is extracted only during fixations, gaze time represents the time actually spent reading and interpreting the interface; therefore gaze time gives an hint about the difficulties found by the user in the comprehension and usage of the interface.

Mouse-logs measure takes into account the number of clicks employed by the users to complete the task, comparing them to the number of ideal ones. When the number of mouse-click importantly exceeds the ideal number the user is encountering problems in the navigation.

The Cognitive Walkthrough (CW) is a qualitative method based on the observation of users during the completion of a pre-defined tasks; errors and problematic steps are usually marked on a form and the analyst can ask users to discuss them ; sometimes users are simply required to report what they are thinking or doing by thinking aloud during the navigation (Wharton et al., 1992; Rieman et al., 1995; Gamberini & Valentini, 2001).

Gaze direction over Eldy interface Gaze direction over Eldy interface

Results

The gaze time, mouse-logs and Cognitive walkthrough analysis showed that:

– Eldy is overall simpler to use except in some tasks.
– The difficulties found by the elderly are due to the failed recognition of some commands or icons.

The worsening of the performance in some tasks is signalled by an increase in gaze time on the pages and a trial-and-error behaviour.

The evaluation made clear that the difficulties found by the elderly are not simply due to an inadequate comprehension of text and images but, more interestingly, to unfamiliarity with some specific procedures that are commonly used in interface interaction. Overall the evaluation showed that Eldy achieved its goal and the solutions proposed to face problems related with aging are valuable.

References

– Gamberini, L. & Valentini, E. (2001). Web usability today: theories, approach and methods. In: Riva, G. & Galimberti, C., Towards cyberpsychology: mind, cognition and society in the internet age. Amsterdam: IOS Press.

– Henderson, J.M. & Hollingworth, A. (1999). High-level scene perception. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 243-271.

– Rayner, K. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 124 (3), 372-422.

– Rieman, J., Franzke, M. & Redmiles, D. (1995). Usability evaluation with cognitive walkthrough. Tutorial presented at CHI ’95 Mosaic of Creativity, May 7-11, Denver, Colorado, USA.

– Wharton, C., Bradford, J.. Jeffries, R. & Franzke, M. (1992). Applying cognitive walkthroughs to more complex user interfaces: experiences, issues, and recommendations. Proceedings of CHI ’92 Conference, May 3-7, Monterey, California, 381-388.


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