Age-related differences in the initial usability of mobile device icons

Leung, R., McGrenere, J., and Graf, P. (2009). Age-related differences in the initial usability of mobile device icons. Behaviour & Information Technology, 30(5). 


Motivation: Mobile devices offer much potential to support older adults (age 65+). However, older adults have been relatively slow to adopt mobile devices. Although much ongoing HCI research has examined usability problems to address this issue, little work has looked at whether existing graphical icons are harder to use for this population compared with younger adults.

Goal: Determine which icon characteristics help initial icon usability for older adults

Methods: We conducted a qualitative exploratory study and a follow-up experimental study.

Results: We found that our older participants did have more problems using existing mobile device icons, but that particular icon characteristics – semantically close meaning (i.e. natural, close link between depicted objects and associated function), familiar, labelled and concrete (i.e. those depicting realworld objects) – improved icon usability for them.We discuss how these findings can help icon designers to create mobile device icons that are more suited to the abilities and technology experience of older adults.

[journal article]