Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) for Elderly People


Publication date



Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

Document type


Master in Universal Design of ICT


While the use of Mobile Instant Messaging (MIM) has been expanding vastly along with mobile technology, the needs of the elderly user group have not been addressed sufficiently in existing MIM applications. MIM applications have great potentials in supporting social interactions and thus contribute to the well-being of the elderly. However, user interface design features such as small font size, confusing icons and application flow in current MIM applications make them difficult to learn and use for the elderly. Furthermore, a preliminary study for this research found out that existing MIM applications are not compatible with speech recognition, such as Android’s TalkBack, which causes difficulties for elderly who might need to utilize speech recognition due to certain disabilities. This research aims to provide a usable and accessible MIM application for the elderly user group. In this research a combination of user-centered and participatory action research principles was adopted. Both approaches aim to have co-developing research prototype with the people rather than for the people. This research was conducted through four main phases, which were (1) user requirement study, (2) design, (3) development, and (4) user testing. In user requirement study, six elderly participated in group interview and user testing to identify the usability and accessibility issues in current MIM solutions and requirements were collected. Based on the requirements and design principles in accessible design, a MIM prototype named Your IM has been designed and developed throughout eight iterations of design, development and user testing. Design, development and user testing were conducted in iterations to ensure the prototype meets the requirement of the end users. Last but not least, final user testing was conducted with the same six elderly from user requirement study in order to perform comparative study. Another user testing with a blindfolded elderly role-playing as visual impaired elderly was performed as well to test Your IM’s integration with Android’s TalkBack. The user testing aimed to investigate if Your IM has helped to address the identified usability and accessibility issues faced by elderly when using existing MIM applications. The results showed improvement in usability and accessibility, especially in sending text, audio and picture messages. The participants also showed less confusion and made fewer errors when performing MIM tasks using Your IM. Overall, they demonstrated positive attitude in learning and using Your IM in the future.


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