I often work with seniors, many of whom use Google apps. Their experience with these apps is often very frustrating.
Here are their major stumbling blocks:
There are too many visual distractions on the screen (e.g. cryptic icons, such as ellipses, which aren’t labeled).
Switching between apps is confusing for some seniors. They often end up with too many open browser tabs and don’t know how to return to their last open session.
Seniors computing needs are often quite basic, so a limited feature set might be better for them.
Many seniors have poor eyesight and like to print things — but Google’s print buttons are sometimes hard to find (and, in some cases, the print button is buried in a menu).
Google places some of its action buttons below the visible screen fold, which makes them frustratingly hard to find (a poor design decision by Google).
Even more frustrating for seniors is Google’s lack of consistency across its own apps. Sometimes the New button is in the top left corner of the screen and other times it’s in the bottom right-hand corner. Why not put the New button is the same place across all of its apps? This would improve the user experience for everyone, not just seniors.
To address many of these issues, I’ve started working on series of design makeovers for Google apps, especially for seniors. If possible, I’d like to code these designs (with the help of volunteer programmers) so seniors can benefit from them.
This is a side project that I will work on as time permits. The designs are bound to change as I test them out.
For my first working draft of a Gmail re-design, I have implemented these changes:
- Rather than showing the typical folder-centric view, I’ve focussed on people instead. Users can easily see incoming emails from their favorite contacts (mostly family). Emails from everyone else are placed on a separate button.
- Fewer features and icons. And all icons are labelled and the Print button is visible at all times.
- No page scrolling — so all buttons stay clearly in view.
- Consistent button placement across all Google apps. The New button always appears in the lower right-hand hand corner of the screen (inside a fixed footer).
- The fixed footer is also used as a Google app switcher (so only one tab session stays open).
Here is a screen shot of my makeover screen from my personal website (www.spark-ux.com).
This design iteration is for desktop web browsers, but I will design them for mobile screens as well.
Your feedback on this project is much appreciated.