Meeting the Needs of Diverse User Groups: Benefits and Costs of Pluggable User Interfaces in Designing for Older People and People with Cognitive Impairments

Meeting the Needs of Diverse User Groups: Benefits and Costs of Pluggable User Interfaces in Designing for Older People and People with Cognitive Impairments

Gottfried Zimmermann (Access Technologies Group, Germany), Jan Alexandersson (DFKI GmbH, Germany), Cristina Buiza (INGEMA, Spain), Elena Urdaneta (INGEMA, Spain), Unai Diaz (INGEMA, Spain), Eduardo Carrasco (VICOMTech, Spain), Martin Klima (Czech Technical University Prague, Czech Republic), and Alexander Pfalzgraf (SemVox GmbH, Germany)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-825-8.ch006
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“Pluggable user interfaces” is a software concept that facilitates adaptation and substitution of user interfaces and their components due to separation of the user interface from backend devices and services. Technically, the concept derives from abstract user interfaces, mainly in the context of device and service control. Abstract user interfaces have been claimed to support benefits such as ease of implementation, support for User Centered Design, seamless user interfaces, and ease of use. This paper reports on experiences in employing pluggable user interfaces in the European project i2home, based on the Universal Remote Console framework, and the Universal Control Hub architecture. In summary, our anecdotal evidence supports the claims on the benefits, but also identifies significant costs. The experience reports also include some hints as to how to mitigate the costs.
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Background On Hci And Aged Users

There is a growing interest for designing and developing human-computer interfaces that fit the needs of the aged users. The interface's specific characteristics have to conform to the performance of older users. Design considerations include variations of the visual, auditory, cognitive and motor functions associated with the process of aging, but other considerations such as emotional, health and social aspects have to be taken into account as well.

It has been found that, related to aging, a decrease of human functions takes place. This includes a reduction of visual function, of sensibility to contrast, changes in the abilities to hear, smell and taste, as well as a decrease of the muscular mass (Witte,1998). These aspects should be considered when designing user interfaces for the aged population, making deliberate decisions on the use of icons and graphics, text, font type and size, use of colors and screen titles, and audio feedback. In cognitive terms, some functions stay stable in the normal process of aging, such as automatic and well-learned responses, remote and semantic memory, and verbal reasoning and comprehension. In contrast, other cognitive functions decline, such as the information processing speed and the working memory. For older users interacting with computers, their cognitive abilities and disabilities can have more impact than sensory aspects. Therefore, the cognitive profile of older users is of crucial importance in the design of user interfaces.

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