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How Today's Tech Alienates the Elderly

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the get-off-my-lawn dept.

News 453

Barence writes "A UK academic has blamed unnecessarily complicated user interfaces for putting older people off today's technology. Mike Bradley, senior lecturer in product design and engineering at Middlesex University, claims efforts to be more inclusive are being undermined by software and hardware design that is exclusively targeted at younger users. He cites the example of the seemingly simple iPhone alarm clock. 'They're faced with a screen with a clock face and a plus sign icon, and they couldn't understand that you were "adding an alarm," so they didn't click the plus sign to get through to that menu. Pressing the clock image takes you through to choices about how the clock is displayed, and it's not easy to get back again.'"

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453 comments

Duh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196506)

Buy a freaking regular alarm clock and get off my lawn.

Unnecessarily complex? (4, Insightful)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196516)

Couldn't that also be interpreted as "necessarily simple"?

Older generations don't get it not because of its complexity, but its simplicity. They might understand better if everything had a label and step-by-step info, but for the rest of us that do understand, this just adds complexity when it might not be needed.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (4, Insightful)

uncanny (954868) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196588)

that's like saying calculus is easy just because you know how to do it, and someone more, ignorant if you will, would have to be shown how to use it. you grew up with computers, so you know the ways to manipulate a comptuer already. Todays OS's are VASTLY more complex than, say, DOS

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196654)

Calculus is easy, but often people are not exposed to it until they are 17-20 years into their lives which makes it harder to learn.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196766)

Dos is not exactly the most intuitive OS either. to use it, you have to learn a variety of commands, and in my opinion, the learning curve far exceeds that of any modern point and click OS. Yes, they can be complex, but that is because they can do so much. For instance, you can get far more simple image editing software then Photoshop, but they are less used, because they complexity of the user interface enables the Photoshop to perform complex tasks accurately. In short, if you want to be able to do more than one thing on something, you need more buttons, and that means that it will be more complex and there is currently no way to stop this.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (5, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196872)

Mmmm. Points to you for being "right" - but - you're missing something too. I'm rather computer savvy, I'm aging, and looking at a display of an alarm clock, I would hesitate to press the "+" sign to "add an alarm". It's a generational thing, I would guess. I grew up "setting the alarm". Later, when alarm clocks and/or watches had multiple alarms available, I continued to "set the alarms". Add an alarm? The terminology leads me to think that I'm going to add a new clock, or in this case, add a new interface for another alarm clock. I don't want another alarm clock - I want to know how to "set" the one I see!

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36197046)

I'm only 24 and I would never think of adding an alarm either, and probably wouldn't press a plus sign on a clock unless I was expecting it to show multiple time zones.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197118)

Well it seems obvious that the feature was designed around an integrated calendar perspective. Its not just an alarm in this context, its a scheduling event on a larger scale. I totally get what you are saying, I'm simply adding that its not JUST an alarm clock, its a part of a calendaring and scheduling system.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197104)

Although I use a CLI on occasion, all I know of DOS is 'cd' and 'dir' - my first instinct would be to type 'help', and if that didn't work I'd probably try 'man' or 'manual'. Assuming one of those worked, I would then read the instructions and find out how to proceed. If not, I'd get out my phone and Google it, or ask somebody. That's exactly the same as what I would do with a new GUI program, except that I'm limited to clicking a finite number of random buttons rather than typing an infinite number of words.

To me, that means the GUI is easier to start up on, but honestly there's very little in it either way - you don't know, you experiment first, and you ask if that doesn't solve your problem. If you can't learn that, you're a lost cause; if you can remember those couple of simple steps, you'll figure out 90% of the standard end-user problems far better than most. I honestly don't see how age or experience comes into it, beyond the fact that the latter speeds up the process by means of increased intuition gained from using similar systems.

TL;DR If you can't use this [xkcd.com], however old you may be, you probably shouldn't be trusted with complex electronics in the first place.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196610)

but for the rest of us that do understand, this just adds complexity when it might not be needed

This would be 'adds complexity when it is not needed', but a prerequisite for understanding this is having a grip of everyday language. This might probably be too complex an endeavour if one is trained to live with 'simple' interfaces.

CC.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (3, Funny)

rmstar (114746) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196658)

Frankly, I think the problems with UIs are unsolvable. There is a point of diminishing returns, and after a while the returns become negative. And whoever is left out after that is a hopeless case.

This is how it actually works in practice [youtube.com] (it's supposed to be satire, but, damn, it's way to accurate)

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

OSDNBoss (318793) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196716)

You are a good case in point. The complexity you believe is added, is simplicity to others while the simplicity "for the rest of us that do understand" is complexity to the elderly. Why not design user interfaces that can accommodate both and be set through settings/preferences. A "full explanation" setting could be added either at the app level or at the device level which would include labels and step-by-step info for the elderly and once learned could be easily turned off! For those that already understand the full explanation setting could be left "off". Even though I'd leave it off for most apps, there are still some apps being developed that are poorly designed and very confusing in their simplicity -- would be good to have a "full explanation" setting for these.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (5, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196734)

The one thing I've noticed about "computer-stupid" people of any age group is that they're unwilling to click on anything unknown or just test something. It's like they've lost the capacity for experimental play and refuse to learn on their own.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (2)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196918)

Yes! About 20 years ago I was a code monkey for a small engineering firm, and the receptionist was forever having trouble with... oh, I can't remember what computer issue it was. So I took the "teach a man to fish..." concept to heart and tried to explain to her why her computer kept messing up and what she could do to fix it herself, and she interrupted me yelling "I don't want to know what's wrong, I just want it fixed!"

And if I had a byte for every time I heard -- not just from novices but from tech support and developers -- "What would happen if I did this?" I'd have more storage space than Google. TRY IT AND SEE, fer cryin' out loud!

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197086)

I absolutely agree, but the problem is a new user might not feel which experiments are harmless. They don't know if the wrong click will do something they don't want, nor whether they'll be able to figure out how to undo it or even if it can be undone. The whole computers/internet is magic to many people. They don't know if a misguided click will cost their privacy or void their warranty or ruin their hardware or break the internets. So they're left frustrated and stressed and cursing at their computer for being so unhelpful and at themselves for being so ignorant.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196946)

It is easy to say this, but if the basics befuddle you, how do you know you will be able to undo any settings changes you make - if you start disabling services at startup without carefully noting which you adjust, it is hard to judge which ones change things. There are a lot of picture adjustments in modern TVs and without advance knowledge of how to reset to default settings, undoing changes can be a pain in the neck. While we are talking intuitive interfaces, I am utterly baffled why modern "Guide" screens where channel up/down frequently equates to paging up and down through the guide, but where channel up equates to a jump back of 10 or so channels.

Unnecessary hassle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196994)

It's like they've lost the capacity for experimental play and refuse to learn on their own.

Becuase just-learn-by-trial-and-error-computer-stupids is what modern industrial design has resorted to. Oh, but it looks "cool" in some trite way, so they got that going for them.

Crap like inscrutable icons appeal to people who get a warm, fuzzy feeling for belonging to the in-crowd that understands their meaning. Doubly so when they get to pat themselves on the back for being experimentally playful.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (5, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197016)

I think it's more fear that they'll break something. Most of us with at least a reasonable understanding of computers have realized that for the most part it's "safe" to play with computer settings and tools. It's rare to screw something up so badly that it can't be fixed, and in large part computer interfaces are designed with either implicit or explicit "undo" options (worst case, exiting a document without saving will nearly always take you back to a "clean" document). Like the monk in the you-tube video your sibling posted though (and if you haven't watched it, it's hysterical), many non-technical users worry that they will damage either the computer or their data if they mess around with stuff.

Personally I consider this attitude somewhat foolish (as I think do most people who fall into the "geek" category), but it's fairly common. Of course if you try to explain to the person that they're unlikely to hurt anything by playing around, they will immediately tell you that it's easy for you to say that, as you're an expert unlikely to hurt anything. It doesn't really occur to them that most of the expertise you or I have comes from a willingness to experiment.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197116)

I think it's more fear that they'll break something.

I wonder if they had that same fear the first time they picked-up a hammer, a screwdriver, a knife, or a ball? Clearly not: children have no such fears. I think as people get older, if they are not vigilant to maintain everyday skills, they become afraid to experiment at all. So they stop learning.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

citylivin (1250770) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196832)

I can easily make that simpler. Simply change the plus sign into a little picture of an alarm clock. Or they could change it to the words "add an alarm".

Why would anyone naturally assume a plus symbol has anything to do with alarms? I wouldn't assume that, and I would only click it because I am trying to experiment and figure out what things do by clicking every button.

Its stupid minimalist UI thats the problem. Designers trying to be more artistic than simple. I mean look at google chrome! You cant find anything because they have gone out of there way to hide everything of value (including the URL bar now!). Pretty soon there will be just one big button on everything that reads your mind and does exactly what you want. A designers dream perhaps, but a nightmare to anyone who values their sense of control. Microsoft has been trying to read users minds for years, and thats one of the reasons they are despised. Personally, I hate it when technology thinks for me. Mostly because technology is stupid!

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

bigpet (1695756) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197028)

I find your points for the alarm somehow valid but chrome is a browser. Most people use browser for extended periods of time. That's why they write the keyboard shortcuts next to the menu items. They want you to use the keyboard shortcuts. Because not learning shortcuts for a software that you often use is just a waste. I basically never use the menu of chrome anymore (except for setting options).
And I didn't learn all shortcuts at once but naturally as I used a function for the 10th time and saw the keycombo next to it.
So now I use CTRL + t , w , r, esc , tab , shift+tab, shift+n, j, s, d and of course f, x, c and v and F6. If you learn a shortcut every week, you'll quickly get faster.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196928)

I think it's an issue of familiarity.

Some elderly get comfortable doing things one specific way. By the time they're forced to change, things are completely unfamiliar. When nothing is familiar, they don't feel comfortable enough to just play around until they figure it out.

In contrast, we use tech every day. Nothing seems entirely unfamiliar to us because we have a very gradual introduction into new things. We intimately know the old feature, so much that the new one feels obvious and with immediate benefit, allowing us to lock in quickly.

Re:Unnecessarily complex? (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196974)

Simplicity is fine, but only if you can figure it out. An alarm clock is not supposed to be complicated. If a user can't figure out how to set the clock, then it's a UI fail.

Even if it's shiny and cool.

Wait, so.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196522)

People don't understand that the plus sign stands for add?

Re:Wait, so.. (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196550)

.. and even if they didn't, they didn't even TRY the only other option, after finding the first did not work?

Re:Wait, so.. (2)

Arcquist (1100065) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196630)

I think this is where part of the disconnect is. I think younger users are comfortable with the fact that it's unlikely they're going to 'break' the device or get hurt if they just start randomly pushing buttons to see what they do. For many older users not used to computers doing random things was historically a good way to break things or hurt yourself so they're very hesitant to do so. When explaining things to older users I usually start with telling them there is really nothing they can do to break it and when in doubt just start trying random buttons to see what they do. Note I realize you can accidentally delete data and such but if they haven't been using a device before there really isn't anything on there to delete. If they truly manage to muck it up you can just reset it to defaults and they can start again with very little loss. These users aren't usually creating tons of content they just want to do simple things.

Re:Wait, so.. (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196696)

I hate to admit it, but I think I may be getting old, I bought my first Android phone recently and still don't know how to do some seemingly simple stuff, I know it can be done as I have done some of it on accident, but no idea how, like getting icon views of all the application screens at once.

Re:Wait, so.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196640)

Why would they think that setting an alarm has anything to do with a mathematical operation? I think you're simply used to a specific GUI paradigm.

Re:Wait, so.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196646)

I've never seen this iPhone clock, but no - I would not assume that it means ADD ALARM in that context. I would assume it meant ADD TIME (like the + on a real alarm clock that advances the hours). It is stupid to redefine that for no reason. If I already have some alarms set is there a minus (-) there too? That would probably be even worse as it would indicate that + and - were definitely for setting the clock.

Re:Wait, so.. (1)

The Dawn Of Time (2115350) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196774)

The summary describes a screen that does not exist in the iPhone alarm clock app, and the "+" button (not icon) is pretty clear in context, being right next to the word "Alarms" like it is.

Re:Wait, so.. (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196800)

I was curious so I just checked this out.
There are multiple tabs: World Clock, Alarm, Stopwatch, Timer.
At the top of World Clock and Alarm, you have Edit and Add.
Underneath, you have rows of clocks and alarms in each respective tab.

So you actually add a clock in the world clock tab and add an alarm in the alarm tab. TFA is wrong or misleading.
This makes sense because Cupertino is a default clock listed there, and obviously that is not my city. So I can watch the time of multiple cities. The presentation is pretty clear. Or not.

Re:Wait, so.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36197100)

Then you would be an idiot and/or an old person (TFS implies they're indistinguishable). One doesn't assume functionality, one RTFMs. If there is no FM and the program is not self-documenting (e.g. tooltips, context-sensitive help), then one purges it from one's system and goes on a nerdrage-fueled vendetta against the author, or at least posts a strongly-worded usenet flame.

Then again, if you're using an iPhone, where from what I've seen most apps rely on icons scrutable only to the author, and AFAIK there is no standard location for installing user-readable docs (manpages, html or otherwise), and no standard self-documenting capabilities, I guess an uncharitable person might suggest that you deserve crappy alarm clock apps, and the author of them deserves whatever sort of rampage/tirade you can muster, so it's all good.

Re:Wait, so.. (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196750)

It sounds like they don't know that "add" includes "set."

Granddaddy used to drive his car to the store, and couldn't understand that certifying a request to schedule an airshuttle pickup was just a simpler way of accomplishing the same goal. Old people are so stupid!

Re:Wait, so.. (2)

hjf (703092) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196780)

In spanish, no. We use the word "agregar", as in "agregar una alarma" (add an alarm), but "sumar" as in "sumar 4 y 5" (add 4 and 5). Both are synonyms, but according to the context, we use one or the other.

So no, a clock next to a plus sign doesn't really tell me much.

Re:Wait, so.. (1)

chronokitsune3233 (2170390) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197040)

That's a problem with the Spanish language... Just kidding. There is a difference between simple in theoretical usage and simple in actual usage, the latter being "intuitive." Obviously this is one example of simple in the theoretical. Let's face it: if many people don't know what it is, they will explore just to figure it out. If someone doesn't know and won't experiment, it is probably due to the fear of the unknown. This is a result of being unable to separate "safe exploration" with "unsafe exploration" in my opinion. For example, you might try microwaving some sort of food that is meant to be put in an oven to see if it'll cook faster or whatever. However, if you hear a strange noise in your home, you most likely wouldn't go exploring without some means of protection. The phone offers no protection from the unknown, a problem for those who need some sort of security guarantee that the phone won't suddenly go bad or take you completely away from where you want to go.

stupid UI is stupid regardless of use age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196544)

i don't blame the elderly, there is no shortage of stupid UI, and with each new iteration they remove the help docs

What? (3, Insightful)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196548)

In rebuttal, I offer my personal anecdote: My mom has never had such an easy time using technology, than now in 2011, now that I've set her on iOS and soon, OSX. Just because the older generation doesn't find it intuitive doesn't mean they can't figure it out with a little tinkering, or at worst, very little Applecare phone support. To insinuate they can't set freaking alarms because they might accidentally push the wrong thing at first is insulting.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196600)

Agreed. My father turned 80 this year and has had no trouble whatsoever learning how to navigate the Mac GUI. My mother now has an iPhone and she gets along just fine.

Re:What? (1)

hellkyng (1920978) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196604)

I totally agree and will add my own as well:

My grandmother plays Wii like a champ, backs up her computer more frequently than most people, and has an Android phone. My grandfather doesn't recognize his own daughters anymore, but can still use an iPad...

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196720)

I'm right with you. For as long as I can remember, my grandparents were obtuse and resistant to doing anything with personal computers; it wasn't until my grandfather died in 2007 that nan decided it was worth jumping in feet first because she saw the information out there second-hand, and I shared my iPhone with her.

She died this January aged 92, owner of a Macbook, Macbook Pro, and two iPhones. She skyped, ichatted, browsed, took photos, emailed, played games and did damned near everything else I did except work (I'm a graphic artist) on the things - and with only a week or two worth of 'training' once she'd decided she could do it herself. The difference between her "computers are so complex!" and "omg this is amazing!" phases was all in her attitude.

And if someone's attitude is all that's holding them back from using technology, it ain't the technology that's alienating them.

EXACTLY (2)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196778)

It's about a new "language" for them to learn - not that it escapes them intellectually. And, its NEVER been easier then now, and I expect it will get easier moving forward. But, the brit has a point - it is still way less than optimum; partly because who fuck is TEACHING them.

I spent three - two hour secessions with mom (70+) and now she is cutting movies, playing solitaire and emailing like anybody else, with attachments, particularly word docs, Printmaker docs, and photos. not bad. not at all bad. still struggles a little in some areas but doing well with Mac OS X and iOS on her iPod. and My dad likes Win 7 - and is very proficient with web surfing and online trading - same age as mom. Neither of them are college grads. Neither of them can work the dvd / vcr optimally - or use the dreaded cable interface for channel surfing. My dad is a machinist - wicked smart, never graduated high school, but owned a company for 38 years with ensuing patents and more... and put three boys through top US four year institutions. My mom knows more vocabulary than yours, period. Never went to college, worked as a paralegal for 40 years - brilliant women. We cant honestly be putting people down because they fail(ed) at something, are we? Are learning curves only for children? Is inspiration only for the youth? Does the only credibility these days come with PhD's and they the only assholes the get to use the microphone?

So to me - its about preference and how well you were taught and inspired. Seems like old hat.

AND I would guess you want to pay attention to this elderly class of folks as technology evolves at a radioactive pace - they are hitting 70 years old at a clip of TEN THOUSAND PER DAY.

Re:What? (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197068)

In rebuttal, I offer my personal anecdote: My mom has never had such an easy time using technology, than now in 2011, now that I've set her on iOS and soon, OSX. Just because the older generation doesn't find it intuitive doesn't mean they can't figure it out with a little tinkering, or at worst, very little Applecare phone support. To insinuate they can't set freaking alarms because they might accidentally push the wrong thing at first is insulting.

Of course, not every elderly person has somebody to "set them up" on iOS or OS X. Would you mother been as successful with this if she had to do it by herself, with no help from her son? If not, then your rebuttal falls short of the mark.

Face it, this is a serious issue for software developers. If iPhone sales are going to be limited to the young, well, that market is already saturated and the declining birthrate doesn't bode well. Apple needs to expand it's market to those people who are current users and that means the elderly. If, for whatever reason, they find the interface confusing, then it won't sell.

The challenge will be to redesign the interface so new users adopt it but not to alienate the current installed base.

Admit it... (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196560)

How many people here would take one look at that UI and assume that the + meant 'mod this up'?

But seriously, why a plus sign inside a square? Why not an oblong marked ALARM?

Re:Admit it... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196616)

Or simply the picture of a bell? You know, of the type which was used on digital alarm clocks since ... well, I think, basically since they exist.

Re:Admit it... (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196626)

Sometimes a word is worth a thousand pictures. Changing the "+" to "Add Alarm" probably would have solved the problem.

Re:Admit it... (1)

jet_silver (27654) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196730)

Exactly. English words are consistent for English-speaking people. Icons have no such standard, and having to memorize the functions represented by icons when they are application-specific (take a look at Solidworks 2011 if you want to see some examples) is an unnecessary hurdle.

Re:Admit it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196906)

And added how much to localization? How many more characters is the German for 'Add Alarm' vs the English? How much real-estate on a 4" screen would that be in German?

Re:Admit it... (1)

Jiro (131519) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196694)

Because if you use the word "alarm" you have to make a different version of the clock for each country you sell it in that speaks a different language.

It's the same reason why everything with an on/off switch has "1" and "0" or icons, not the words "on" and "off".

Re:Admit it... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197098)

Because if you use the word "alarm" you have to make a different version of the clock for each country you sell it in that speaks a different language.

It's the same reason why everything with an on/off switch has "1" and "0" or icons, not the words "on" and "off".

Just as the other text for apps in an iPhone or Android phone appear in the native language the phone is set for, wouldn't the word "Alarm" also do that? However, you really wouldn't need the word "alarm" anyway. A picture of a bell or an icon that actually looks like an alarm clock would probably suffice.

Thumbs Up (1)

Sideswiped (259402) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196726)

How many people here would take one look at that UI and assume that the + meant 'mod this up'?

But seriously, why a plus sign inside a square? Why not an oblong marked ALARM?

The "+" has an association with numbers and your mod points affect a post's score. A thumbs up/down may have conveyed this more clearly , but then you run into issues with cultural interruptions of hand gestures(go ahead, thumbs up a middle eastern).

Re:Admit it... (1)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196754)

But seriously, why a plus sign inside a square? Why not an oblong marked ALARM?

Because if you replace all the words (and menu options) with pictures, you don't have to pay a team of translators any money to localize the product for non-English-speaking markets.

You make a claim like "menus confuse people", take the menus off, and claim that you're saving screen real estate. It sounds trendy, because desktop monitors are now down to 1080 vertical pixels, and all the sexy gadgets are tablets and phones with even less resolution. Scrap the status bar, nobody needs to know what their web browser is doing. Scrap the URL bar, nobody needs to know where their web browser is. Scrap the menu bar itself, nobody needs more options. Options just confuse people and take up real estate that could be better filled with more pretty pictures!

But what it's really about is saving money.

Re:Admit it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196818)

But seriously, why a plus sign inside a square? Why not an oblong marked ALARM?

Because if you replace all the words (and menu options) with pictures, you don't have to pay a team of translators any money to localize the product for non-English-speaking markets.

You do anyway; there's lots of other text in the UI... the word "alarm" for example.

The U.K. Acadmic Is An (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196568)

Idiot.

Grandma shouldn't have to worry about the OPERATING SYSTEM.

Stupid Brits.

Yours In Akademgorodok,
Kilgore Trout

Separate version for the elderly? (3, Interesting)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196574)

Is there some way to make such things simple enough for the elderly without detracting from the functionality for younger people? iPhones are far from the only thing that the elderly have trouble with, but it doesn't seem wise to tailor everything in the world to cater specifically to them. If designers can't find a way to make a device useable by both the young and the old without compromising on the usability for either group then there really ought to be two separate devices. I've certainly seen enough infomercials to know there's certainly a large market of elderly people out there you can market to directly.

I'm certainly sympathetic since i plan to be elderly myself one day, but i'd like to hope when that day arrives i'll either try to learn how to use whatever new-fangled thing the kids are into, or use alternative devices/software/whatever that fits my needs. (Kind of like how the first thing i do after installing Windows 7 is make extensive modifications to give it a "Windows Classic" theme.)

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (0)

spaceplanesfan (2120596) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196620)

Its just a matter of assholeness.
These elderly peoples just don't want to admit that thay need to learn a bit and thats it.
They think they are older and thus smarter that us, and that they know everything.
Really that is the case.

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196782)

Its just a matter of assholeness.
These elderly peoples just don't want to admit that thay need to learn a bit and thats it.
They think they are older and thus smarter that us, and that they know everything.

While that is an assholelish way to put it, I think you are correct in a general sense.

It isn't a case of people thinking they are smarter than anyone else, but more of being set in their ways with a reluctance to explore. The iphone alarm clock user-interface isn't any easier for "young" people to use, there is nothing about it that inherently caters to a particular age group. If it had justin bieber or maybe an ed hardy logo on it, then it might reasonable to call it age-specific.

Rather, its a case of just having the patience to poke at it and see what happens. And that reluctance to explore, be it fear of breaking something or lack of patience for the extra work required seems to become more common as people age - after all the phrase "set in their ways" isn't one typically applied to youths.

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196806)

I agree that it's a matter of mindset, but it's not assholeness. I notice this all the time: young people and kids will go through every button and menu, try everything out, when they get their hands on a new device. Middle aged people like myself still like to tinker a bit but we're not as curious anymore. Once the device more or less performs as we expect it to, we'll leave it alone. And the elderly might be somewhat afraid to tinker with new tech.

When we got our grandma a VCR, she kept asking us to program the timer to record her favourite shows. She said she "would never understand something that complex"... so we just sat her down and took her through the motions, manual in hand. 15 minutes later she was amazed at how easy it turned out to be. The thing that had kept her from using her VCR wasn't a crap interface, it was fear to try.

Of course there are some awfully designed interfaces out there, but they are awful to everyone (Siemens microwave department, are you reading this?!). And don't get me started on the quality of manuals these days...

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196632)

Is there some way to make such things simple enough for the elderly without detracting from the functionality for younger people?

Giant buttons?

Seriously, there are many levels of devices o the market, from that Ladybug phone with big buttons and a simple contacts list, up to Androids and iPhones, buy the one that is right for you. My 72 year old mom does quite fine with a Android phone, though she says it does "too much". My father the Luddite doesn't ow a cell phone.

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196874)

I don't own a cell phone and don't really need one. I don't like it much when people get on me about not owning one. The big point is that as long as the older methods of doing things don't break, I think the elderly who are having trouble adapting simply won't have too. I have a land line for phone calls and I can text people via the Internet. No biggie. Find out what feature set the elderly are most interested in and support that.

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196762)

Berke Breathed had it right when he introduced the Apricot computer to Bloom County. You could allocate the computer resources depending on the needs of the user.

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196898)

No. Elderly people want what they are used to. They are not used to computers, simple or complex. There's nothing wrong with giving Grandpa a stand alone alarm clock, he already knows how to use it. The ultimate solution for this problem is attrition. Eventually everyone alive will have grown up with computers.

Re:Separate version for the elderly? (1)

screwzloos (1942336) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197054)

It's interesting trying to imagine how we, as relatively tech-savvy generation x slashdotter types (yes, I'm generalizing), will function around new technology when we're older. I'm already old enough that some of this new-fangled stuff doesn't appeal to me, like smartphones or Facebook or Twitter - but that's because I find them useless and intrusive. Will that somehow eventually devolve into me not being able to figure out the TV remote?

I suppose it goes the other way, too. When we're older, how many people will be left that know how to set the timing on a small block Chevy? I'm sure more of our parents know about that than we do.

Soylent Green (0)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196582)

Simple solution to you impending Social Security/Medicare woes AND the elderly's tech frustrations.

World hunger problem? Solved.

"Smart" phones are very hard for some people (4, Interesting)

nysus (162232) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196596)

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting next to a gentleman, 55 to 60 years old, who was having a great deal of trouble performing what most of us would consider the most basic of functions such as how to add a new city to the iPhone's built-in weather feature. He had just purchased the phone and so I helped him through the process. It was quite an eye-opener for me. He had not even figured out how to appropriately tap on the screen (he was pressing on it as if it were a mechanical button and so his touches never registered). He was constantly misspelling with they keyboard, could not figure out how to correct a mistake. It took him about a dozen efforts and maybe about 3 minutes before he successfully typed in Boston.

I would estimate he would need a one-on-one training of at least a few hours in duration before he could being to use some of the other iPhone's most basic features.

Re:"Smart" phones are very hard for some people (1)

uniquename72 (1169497) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196688)

No interface on earth is instantly usable for people who don't have a baseline competency in similar interfaces.

My great grandmother -- born in 1911 -- never learned to drive a car in her life. Is it because car interfaces are poorly designed, or because she just didn't care enough to bother learning? Considering millions of people her age had no problem with it, I'd argue the latter.

Re:"Smart" phones are very hard for some people (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196768)

...Considering millions of people her age had no problem with it, I'd argue the latter.

I'm not sure about that...from what I've seen of elderly drivers it very well could be a bad interface. Every time I've almost been run off the road on my motorcycle it's been an old person. In fairness though the last one (4 days ago) was texting and driving so at least they have one interface down reasonably well.

Re:"Smart" phones are very hard for some people (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196732)

he was pressing on it as if it were a mechanical button and so his touches never registered

It's pretty amazing how frequently this happens. Even with buttons that are obviously just electric switches, old people will mash down as hard as they can, as if the force they apply is correlated to the success of the operation. Maybe they're reminded of old typewriters, where you actually did have to mash down on the keys to make it work.

Re:"Smart" phones are very hard for some people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36197114)

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting next to a gentleman, 55 to 60 years old, who was having a great deal of trouble performing what most of us would consider the most basic of functions such as how to add a new city to the iPhone's built-in weather feature. He had just purchased the phone and so I helped him through the process. It was quite an eye-opener for me. He had not even figured out how to appropriately tap on the screen (he was pressing on it as if it were a mechanical button and so his touches never registered). He was constantly misspelling with they keyboard, could not figure out how to correct a mistake. It took him about a dozen efforts and maybe about 3 minutes before he successfully typed in Boston.

I would estimate he would need a one-on-one training of at least a few hours in duration before he could being to use some of the other iPhone's most basic features.

Coinciding almost exactly on my 40th birthday, I could no longer read anything without reading glasses. Bigger fonts and greater contrast between background and text help. Also, try pressing or gesturing when your hands are shaky.

stuff that really matters to include disarmament+ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196606)

mandatory care of our untech savvy young & old, and even being nicer to/not killing anybody & everybody else world wide. our rulers said as much on ahab the arab tv last night, oddly enough

Field of vision sucks (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196618)

I help my 82-year-old dad out every day on his computer. He has used them in business since the 80's and old CRT 80x24 text interfaces worked much better for these geezers.

I got him a huge 27" widescreen which really helps him read the text, but windows are so big, the menus might as well be in a different country from the minimize/maximize/close and it takes forever to get his eyes from the center of a window to a status display at the bottom.

What many older people need is less options or someway to put all your affordances in one central location.

I think more UI designers need cataracts, macular degeneration, and to be hit over the head with a rubber mallet, before they can understand what old people go through. Hit me with a rubber mallet while you are at it.

problem is the manner of learning (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196624)

Once someone sees that the plus sign adds an alarm, then they'll know the plus sign adds an alarm. You only have to figure it out once.

I'm not elderly, but I'm old-ish (63) and I watch people my age struggle with very simple things because rather than learn the underlying concepts, they learn by rote. They learn "the second icon from the left does this". They don't bother to learn what the computer is really doing. Use words like "filesystem" and their eye glaze over. But without basic understanding of the technology, everything on the screen is going to be "magic" - if you don't understand the whys and wherefores, there is no hope of ever accomplishing anything but rote memorization.

I'd say about 90% of the time, they are perfectly well able to understand what's happening if they want - they just don't want to. You can't fix "don't want to learn". The ones who value learning, who don't have a culture of shutting of their brains and refusing to ever think, do just fine.

Of course this doesn't apply once certain disabilities like Alzheimer's enter the picture - that's a different problem and one no UI is going to fix.

Re:problem is the manner of learning (1)

Eugenia Loli (250395) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196704)

Fully agreed. All the elderly family I have in Greece have feature phones, but they learn by habit: press some numbers, press the green button, then the red. Nothing else. They don't even know how to program their TV, someone else has to set it up for them the first time, and then they remember by habit that button with a 3 on it, is "News channel", for example. They don't want to learn how things really work. I tried. I tried with my mom, I tried to explain her the logic, but she prefers to write down on a paper which button does what, and then press these blindly, without understanding what's really going on.

So the problem really is "I don't want to learn", not that iOS is too difficult to use. Especially iOS, is not.

get off my lawn! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196648)

Today's tech alienates me, and I'm not even elderly! I am annoyed not because I don't understand how to operate the tech, but instead because I hate how society has embraced 'technology' as some panacea. Spell check is okay, but learn how to spell. Constantly talking on your mobile phone -- learn to be alone with your thoughts. CGI-laden movies -- where'd the plot go? Automatic parallel parking -- good grief, you shouldn't be allowed to drive.

IMO necessarily complex (2)

yacwroy (1558349) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196672)

Computers function in a different way to physical objects.

Making people accept this is far, far simpler than trying to force every computer idea into a real-world analog.

Stop treating a computer like a car or bike - you can't learn it in a week and you'll be spending a lot of your life using one so get it right. Even if you're old you can learn (and it'll do your mind good too).

Everyone can name ways that an application should be simpler. Trouble is, ask 100 people and you'll get 100 different answers, many of which will be mutually exclusive.

Only today's tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196676)

So? How is this any different from yesterday's tech?

Technology has always been aimed at the young-to-midle aged. It's been a problem for a long time. It wasn't any better back when we had PalmPilots instead of iPads, or when "programming your VCR" was a Thing.

Its not just the elderly (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196678)

Its most anyone that isn't tech-savvy.

What ever happened to interfaces deigned for a *user*, not a techie ( like we had with the newton for example )?

The interfaces should adapt to us, not the other way around.

So they learn..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196706)

Kids nowadays aren't magically born with some sort of intrinsic understanding of how to use technology, they just pick it up as they go along and after say 10 or 15 years they can use it with the proficiency you'd expect from someone who's been doing something for over a decade.

I know 3 people in their 70's who sit at their PC's and check their e-mail over their broadband connection on a daily basis, one of them had me round his house a few days ago to hook up an internet connected PVR. Provided they can see the icons and read the fonts there is absolutely nothing from stopping the elderly from learning to use any piece of tech they choose save for their own preconceptions.

Inconsistency / changes create problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196736)

Things constantly change with technology. Something that you learned yesterday doesn't work the same today because something has changed. The options to move the menu bar or the lack of a file menu on every program. That is what makes things hard to use. When a user can always go to file -> print things are easy. When users open Microsoft Office and find no consistent user interface then they have to learn something new. Learning gets harder as you get older. Changing things around is not helping. Apple and Microsoft are the main problem. They make really bad changes. They say it is faster or better yet they fail to take into consideration that differences between interfaces makes take 3x as long as it otherwise would and waste serious time in learning. Design once and keep it that. We had 10 plus years of file -> prints. Now we had no good reason to change that. Before we had square screens which were bigger vertically and worked well. While the wide screen is less expensive to produce you gain an extra extra pound due to the need for a larger screen than with the older square screen laptops. Things are not getting better. They are getting worse. We went from the Palm m5xx to handhelds with black screens that worked amazingly well. Turned on instantly, never crashed, and did what they were designed to do well. Then Microsoft released an OS and out came clunky handhelds with color screens that lost data because of battery issues, were thick, and took for ever to start-up. Not to mention slow even though they had a faster CPU. Microsoft may have disappeared from the land scape although phones have retained that clunky generic OS (Android) without any solid utilities to do anything well, thick, and only brought a few new unnecessary features. About the only thing a phone does better is it lets you talk to other people and surf the web. Something that could have probably been achieved with an M500 design. Maybe things will slightly improve with dual-core processors in phones. The CPU speed is not the problem though. It is bad design.

Don't get one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196738)

The elderly got along fine without any portable phones at all before every whipper-snapper started throwing thier i-phones all up in everyones faces. What i dont understand is why the elderly get these new fangled devices and then whine about how hard it is to use them. Either Learn how to use the technology or dont use it at all. Im sure the elderly would live happier lives if they didnt have to stress about stupid little gadgets they don't really need.

Really? They cant figure out the iphone? (1, Insightful)

ya really (1257084) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196746)

It has one of the most intuitive user interfaces ever. So much that even the noobiest of tech/computer users can figure it out. Perhaps if they can't understand how the amazingly easy to use the iphone UI is, they need a dummies book or one of these [intomobile.com]

RTFM (1)

Sprouticus (1503545) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196770)

If you can read, you can use tech. Read the manual. Google it. look up a video on youtube. Or just ask someone.

there is no excuse for ignorance. In tech or anything else. Saying that older people have some special disadvantage is just a load of crap.

true for a whole century. (1)

evilWurst (96042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196794)

At the risk of invoking Plato's rant about youth: this isn't very new. The last couple waves of technology befuddled new users too. Remember all the VCRs permanently blinking 12:00 in the 1980s, followed by microwaves doing the same in the 1990s? And that's just sticking to old jokes about digital clocks. But I'm sure most of us who're old enough, or knew others who were old enough, have heard a wealth of similar things about devices of the same decades... and similar things about cars dating to several decades before that (not even the maintenance issues, but even simple operation issues like finding the lights and wipers on different models, or driving a manual shift vehicle at all).

Some of these even apply in the other timewise direction; today's youth would not find many devices from the 1960s intuitive at first contact either. Record players and typewriters (and adding machines) come to mind as things one might have trouble using without instruction, especially if they weren't already set up and ready to use.

Well... (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196822)

I think the elderly are keeping tech evolution a giant step back... then again, I can't ask, in good conscience, for them to be ignored as I'm sure 50 years from now I'll be glad to use them new-fangled holographic systems without scratching my head too much....

Why don't they try instead of acting helpless? (1)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196826)

The problem is that the elderly stopped learning new things for too long so the tools atrophied. A young person with a brand new smart phone would come in with a clear head and immediately start mentally mapping out functionality and figuring out, maybe not even at a concious level, all the underlying metaphors. They quickly intuit the best way to tap the screen. They figure out how to back out of things and start pressing buttons to see what everything does.

Being old doesnt prevent you from doing any of this. I've seen plenty of old people who never lost that spark to explore and learn who have no trouble with this stuff. Maybe they're not as sharp and it takes a bit longer to learn, but they get it. I don't think we should be dumbing things down for people who don't try to help themselves.

Plus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196846)

Exactly. The plus sign is a way too recent invention to be a common concept for a user interface.

That clock would be confusing even for me (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196848)

That's just basic bad design. I would (and have) done the same thing with some alarm widgets. Actually, you would be surprised how many alarms are badly designed - probably because anybody can program a simple clock. Why the heck would you want to change the clock design by tapping it? Is that the main functionality of the clock? The clock change function should be in the menu somewhere. And if it rings, I expect to see a great big bell or button which I can hit to switch it off. Preferably I should be able to shout at it as well.

We of course understand computers and programmers. So we don't get in a fit, think for a second and hit the back button or something similar.

i am 36 (4, Interesting)

drolli (522659) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196880)

and i am alienated by todays user interfaces. What alienates me most is that showing the keybinding seem to be a thing of the past and pure text menus are not possible to turn on.I like a simple alphabetically sorted list to start apps, which would take less space and not be as weird as having 9 screenful of badly designed, stupidly copied or sometime identical icons. And sorry on the most alarm clocks on smartphones you could instead of the plus easily write "add/set alarm" - no lack of space there.

it's not an older/younger thing (5, Insightful)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196886)

It's not an older/younger thing, it's entirely an "unnecessarily complicated or obscure" thing. Sure, younger people have more experience with enigmatic interfaces, and are more likely to keep trying without getting frustrated, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the interface in question appeals to young folk. For instance, a "set alarm" button would be more immediately understood regardless of age, or (and this point is completely missed) degree of geekiness.

Re:it's not an older/younger thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36196992)

It's not an older/younger thing, it's entirely an "unnecessarily complicated or obscure" thing. Sure, younger people have more experience with enigmatic interfaces

That's it, really. The difference is not that younger people are brighter than old people; the difference is that (some?) old people have an almost paranoical fear of trying to solve problems like these. Click on a random button to see what it does? Open a menu? Look for an option? But just think about what might happen! Maybe the phone will self-destruct, or call muggers to your house, or empty your bank account automatically.

I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.

My parents (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#36196978)

Both gone now, but vastly different in use of tech. I don't believe my mom ever used a PC, but my dad was a UNIX and MS Office instructor up until a few months before he passed at 81. I remember my son, at age 4, trying to teach my mom how to use MSPaint.

In 2050, when you whippersnappers are 70 and 80, all the 'kids' will be ragging on you geezers about how you don't 'get' the new-fangled brain-silicon interface, with the 3DHD corneal implants.

Payback time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36197000)

Don't complain! You've got overwhelming representation at the polls, we happily troll by with our gadgets.

Bad example (2)

EdwinFreed (1084059) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197010)

Maybe he's using a custom clock app or something, but on my iPhone the built in clock app has four clearly labeled mode setting buttons at the bottom: "World Clock", "Alarm", "Stopwatch", and "Timer". Pressing the one called "Alarm" to set an alarm seems, well, obvious, and when you do that you get a screen saying "no alarms" and exactly one "+" button you can press, so unless you simply freeze up at that point I don't see how this can be so confusing. In particular, no clock face is displayed at this point so there is no possibility of, "Pressing the clock image takes you through to choices about how the clock is displayed, and it's not easy to get back again."

If you want to criticize the alarm and calendar stuff on the iPhone, a better place to start is the spinning dial thing used to enter times. (Which is what comes up once you press "+".) A lot of people dislike this and find it hard to use. I don't find it difficult personally, but I have to admit I'd prefer a numeric keypad.

tiny type (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36197070)

Tiny type. Hard to read.

Cute and clever (1)

MpVpRb (1423381) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197108)

Designers tend to like cute and clever. Sometimes this results in interfaces that are incomprehensible. Apple is the worst offender. It has nothing to do with age.

The nature of tech requires adaptation & learn (2)

bADlOGIN (133391) | more than 2 years ago | (#36197124)

These are two things that the elderly stereotypically are not accustomed to and have not had as a constant requirement throughout their lives. I suspect this will be recognized as a generational issue. The elderly of tomorrow who are today's Gen-X, Gen-Y & Millennial adults will not have this problem. We've been born into a culture that will mow you down if you don't keep yourself up to date.

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