Book Review - Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population

If you have read any of my previous blog posts you might have noticed that I have an interest in accessibility focused design. So when I came across Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population by Jeff Johnson and Kate Finn I was interested to understand how their advice would differ from all the other accessibility advice I had read.

It is a good book which starts by explaining why designing for an aging population is important. Firstly they explain that within the book they will refer to older adults as anyone over 55. But they also explain that because of the age range the ‘older adult’ label can cover (55 - 100+) a lot of what they write about later in the book will depend on the individual.

The aging book on a stone surface.
Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population by Jeff Johnson and Kate Finn

They also point out that making these changes will help everyone use the website or digital product you are working on, and that if you think of the number of people in this age range, that is rather a lot of people who have money to spend, to exclude from your service.

They then get into the different issues people might have, from visual problems right through to cognition and attitude.

Each section gives more detail about the issue then offers recommendations for improvements.

They have also include six profiles of older people who pop up across the sections and give more depth to the issues people might be having.

It ends with a set of five case studies explaining how teams have worked with older people to make their products even better.

It is similar to other accessibility books I have read, but I liked how it was laid out, making it very easy to find information on how to improve an issue.

I believe that everyone working in tech should read this book, but I know there will be push back on that. Not because they are suggesting anything very hard technically, but because it makes you examine your own future and how it will not be long before we too will be struggling with some new piece of technology that we did not grow up with and is not designed for our aging bodies which are letting us down with their reduced abilities to see, hear and move.

Societies obsession with youth and the fact that older adults are tidied away into care homes rather than living with the rest of us mean there is a distinct disconnect between those people designing services and products and the people who might use them. They probably have not even realised there is an issue.

But we really do need to get better at this, because one day it will be us and if we do not start the process now we will be the ones having the problems and with no way of influencing the changes needed. Lets help our future selves. Read this book.