As social distancing continues to be a crucial tool in combatting the further spread of coronavirus, there has been a significant surge in demand for online products and services. While many consumers may have been accustomed to accessing their bank account, shopping for food and other products, or accessing the news online via the web or a mobile app, there is a significant proportion of society who are now doing so for the first time.
This is especially true amongst older generations. According to Age UK, two-thirds of people aged over 75 and three out of ten aged 65 to 74 don’t use the internet. Now that social distancing has made online platforms one of the main ways in which we access products and services, the imperative to make these platforms accessible to all has become all the more pressing.
Digital products and services must now not only be designed to accommodate for a wave of first-time users but must also consider any potential barriers that would prevent interaction with or access. As a result, all users can get the best experience possible regardless of their knowledge and experience with technology, as well as any physical impairments.
What happens as we age?
While the ageing process is different for everyone, we all go through some fundamental changes. It’s therefore important we understand these changes in order to empathise with them.
Designing digital experiences to include older users
A new generation of digital accessibility
Coronavirus has accelerated the already growing trend of software and applications becoming the centre of how users access products and services. At the same time, we’ve already seen a number of software-driven solutions which help users with age-related impairments overcome potential barriers to accessibility.
For example, the National Theatre’s ‘Smart Caption Glasses’ use intelligent voice-following software to display subtitles on its lenses and indicate sound cues such as thunder or the sound of rain for people with hearing loss. But in addition to making specific changes to address specific potential issues that older generations may encounter, designers of digital products and services must consider the essential human elements of ageing, such as independence, dignity and empowerment.
Ageing is inevitable and affects everyone. The design of digital products must therefore take into account how the experience of the past will shape user interaction in the present, not only accounting for things like visual or aural impairment but users who did not grow up in the 21st century. Inclusive products work better for everyone, especially the people who need them the most, even our future selves.
The VMware Pivotal Labs view
Design needs to be human-centric in order to deliver real value to end-users. This requires regularly engaging with the widest range of potential users, gathering feedback and using the data to constantly make iterations on existing designs. Through the power of agile methodology, designers repeatedly check products and services are effectively built for purpose, as well as identify and address any assumptions or unconscious biases which manifest in the product.
Now more than ever, the design of products that aim to connect, inform and assist will be put to the test. While we all hope for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, let’s see what we can take forward in product design to ensure inclusivity for all.