Empirical investigation & user-centred development of touch-screen text entry methods older adults

Project: Research

Project Details


"Mobile technologies now have a considerable impact on work and social lives, for example it is estimated that over 25% of emails are now opened on mobiles. As the older working population rises, due to both aging population demographics and increasing retirement age, an increasing number of digital economy workers will require to use mobile technologies for work into their mid/late 60s.

The proposed European Accessibility Act aims to require goods and services that are seen as critical for the citizen to participate in society to be accessible to disabled and older people - this is likely to cover information and communication technologies including mobile phones. Age UK encourage the UK Government to support the act and state that the EU must ensure that the scope of the act is broad enough to cover the needs of older people.

Text entry is core to mobile interaction such as email, social networking, instant messaging and interacting with services such as web or map searching and thus it is increasingly important to people's participation in work and society. The majority of smartphones now do not have any physical keyboard but rely on on-screen touch keyboards. These have been shown to be slower and more error-prone than traditional mini-physical keyboards, but are popular as they permit full screen services and larger reading area.

While there have been numerous studies into text entry usage on touchscreens, there has been very little work studying the effects of aging on text entry, and none on modern touchscreen phones where reduced visual acuity, reduced motor control and reduced working memory are all likely to have an impact. Currently industry is focussed on targeting the current main market of younger users with any devices designed for older users being extremely simplified phones rather than powerful smartphones people are becoming accustomed to. Our initial studies have also shown that older users have considerable trouble with modern smartphones but may be willing to adopt new keyboard layouts and technologies to compensate for this.

In this project we will conduct a detailed investigation into text entry for older adults. We will build on our initial results and current prototype keyboards to conduct participatory design sessions with older users to identify key design criteria for older adult text entry. We will quantitatively measure touchscreen tapping times for different age groups and develop accidental tap filters to reduce errors. We will formally evaluate keyboards based on our findings to assess our hypothesis that older people can successfully use appropriately designed touch-screen text entry methods."


Empirical investigation and user-centred development of touch-screen text entry methods for older adults

Key findings

"This project investigated mobile smartphone touch screen text entry for older adults. Through participatory design sessions with older adults and controlled usability studies we discovered:

* older adults have a desire for text entry systems that support them in identifying and correcting mistakes made while typing;

* older adults were, in general, more open to new keyboard styles and new text entry approaches than younger adults who are more wedded to QWERTY;

* traditional text entry evaluation measures were unsuitable for studying performance of errors: in the lab people typed slowly and accurately.

As part of the project we developed new text entry study techniques that investigate different aspects of typing from traditional studies and can complement traditional studies: image description tasks, chat tasks and injecting error artificially. These were refined in our studies with publication in press or under review and are all useful in investigating user behaviour under error."
Effective start/end date1/09/1330/11/15


  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council): £286,294.00


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