Age-related Human Factors of Mobile Websites

Mobile Device Users Age Faster Than General Population

-Levy Eymard - VP User Research

The mobile device user has, on average, gotten older at a faster rate than the general population. How can that happen? What does that mean for my website?

For years, smart phones and tablets were the go to device for the young or tech savvy person. Older people (we are talking 40 and above) were more likely to own a cell phone with no texting, or data plan included as compared to the younger crowd. As cell phone service plans changed, both the older user and the less tech savvy user changed their plans and their devices. The result is simple math. All of those older, clam phone users were added to the mobile device user group and the average age of that group rose. Today the average age of a mobile device user is closer to the average of the general population. If you are thinking OK, it is simple math, the next question should be "What does this mean for your company's website?"

Website and application (i.e., apps) usability begins with Human Factors. Human Factors are the human strengths and limitations we all bring to any situation. These strengths and limitations include both physical and cognitive abilities and performance levels. If human factors are ignored, your site risks being un-usable or too difficult to use no matter how pretty and inviting it appears to be at first glance. It should not be a surprise to anyone that our physical and cognitive abilities change as we move through life.

One example of our changing abilities can be found in driving a car. Think about the last time you drove in at night in the rain on the surface roads, not the interstate. Were you a little more tense, or did you drive a little slower than when you were 25? If you are not sure, next time you are driving in the rain during day take a moment to notice how tight you are grasping the wheel (but please be safe!). Is your grip tighter than when you drive the same route on a sunny day? Regardless of your age, you will notice a difference between rain and no rain. This difference is due to the increase demands made on your brain in order to drive safely. This is an example of cognitive human factors.

How do I know if my company's website's usability is being impacted by the human factors differences caused by an older demographic than only two years ago? You can look at the cognitive science or human factors engineering literature for help, and then apply what you learn to your website usability.

We can help by providing an assessment of your website and how its usability will be impacted by the human factors differences that occur between a younger audience and an older audience.