Cognition Studio, Inc.

strategic communications for life sciences

Engaging Older Audiences on Mobile

September 19, 2014
By Kristine Johnson
Kristine Johnson's picture
Fri, 09/19/2014 - 15:59 -- Kristine Johnson

Client: BirdNote.org—connects bird watchers all over the world by delivering daily shows and stories.

Project Title: Mobile Adaptation of the website BirdNote.org

Duration: June–September 2014

Team:

  • Creative Director: Kristine Johnson
  • Director of Listener Engagement and Digital Media at BirdNote.org: Adam Sedgley
  • Designer: Haebin Donna Seo  

Background: The number of visits to BirdNote.org from a mobile device had drastically increased in the last two years—from 14% in 2009 to 43% in 2013.

Strategy:  In response, BirdNote.org is adapting to the digital age by making their mobile web design to be a strategic marriage between a responsive and adaptive design. The strategy was to create a web application that delivers the most vital content and maintains easy usability.

Research:

  1. Survey listeners: Last year, the BirdNote team developed and launched a survey of its listeners to learn more about who they are, why they listen, and how BirdNote has made a difference in their lives. They received 1,240 responses, and discovered that the BirdNote listener is most likely white (88%), female (68%), 55–64 years old (39%), has at least a bachelors’ degree (74%). Moreover, when compared to the 2009 survey, a large number of responses indicated a trend that more people are listening to BirdNote outside the radio broadcast.
  2. Analyze the website: According to BirdNote’s Google Analytics, in July 2014, BirdNote had 47,389 visits, an average of two pages were visited in a single session, specific shows and blog articles had the top number of hits, the top device that BirdNote was being accessed from was the Apple iPhone (32.7%) then the Apple iPad (31.0%), and the top browser was Safari (31.4%).
  3. Research best mobile practices for senior citizens: BirdNote’s primary listener is 55 to 64 years old (39%). The second largest age group is 65 to 74 years old, which makes up 22% of BirdNote’s listeners. Overall, 65% of BirdNote’s listeners are seniors. Therefore, according to this data, curated by Google Analytics (also on page 8), it is important for BirdNote’s mobile application of the website to be considerate of older audiences.

Key Discoveries:

  • Minimalist design to prevent cognitive overload
  • Large icons for easier interpretation of function
  • Maximize contrast since color discrimation ability declines with age
  • Clear instructions on how to use interactive functions (preferably text based)
  • Simple navigation
  • Provide feedback when an action is taken
  • Limit multi-touch gestures

Design Solution: Because 65% of BirdNote’s users are seniors, it was important to optimize the mobile website for them. As Jeanie Barker wrote in Optimizing mHealth Apps for Older Adults, “as people age, they experience a decline in motor, sensory and cognitive abilities. For example, visual acuity, visual search capabilities, fine-motor skills, hand dexterity and touch sensitivity all decline with age. These changes can make interacting with mobile applications more difficult.” A few of her strategic points were making touch targets larger, placing targets in easy-to-reach places, allowing adequate space between targets, and using a legible font at an appropriate font size. AppsUsability.com suggested using a minimalist design to prevent cognitive overload, providing large icons that are easy to interpret, avoiding the use of irrelevant information, maximizing contrast, providing clear instructions on how to use interactive functions (text-based), and implementing a simple navigation.

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Blog post by Haebin Donna Seo