Calvin and his wife, Dorothy, are inside a brightly lit Verizon store on Pine and Battery streets in San Francisco, attending an evening "Android: Getting Started" workshop. They've been married for more than 50 years, and when he jokes that Dorothy is merely 25 years old, she laughs and says she's actually 82. After getting suggestions from a sales rep, the couple bought two Samsung Galaxy S3s (according to Dorothy, they bought the same phone "so at least one of us has a fighting chance to figure it out"), but became increasingly frustrated with how to use it.
All in the designPhone manufacturers that specialize in the senior demographic have been trying to figure out how to make their handsets as user-friendly as possible, At the CTIA mobile conference this year, Doro unveiled its PhoneEasy740, an unreleased smartphone created specifically for seniors, Though it has a touch screen, a data connection, and an app store, the handset also has a generously sized rubber number pad, an emergency call button, and a camera that doubles as a iphone case taser magnifying glass, "Basically we were thinking: how can we take the technology and connectivity of the smartphone and bring that in with seniors?" said Thomas Bergdahl, Doro's vice president of product development..
Other than performing well and reliably, physical design is one of the most important factors in building a good senior device. And while everyone wants the end products to look modern, simplicity is still king. A few standards Bergdahl cited: avoid sharp edges and corners, have easily interpreted shapes, and work with buttons but be strategic about where you place them. "There is a lot of thought in the details that you don't see," he said. "But you feel those details when you hold the phone in your hands."In addition to form factor, user interface is a key element. It should be clean and easy to follow. If done well, users will hardly notice it. Executed poorly, however, and they will become frustrated and give up.
"No dead ends, no logical leaps," said David Inns, CEO of GreatCall Inc., the producer of the Jitterbug senior handset, According to him, as soon as users aren't sure what to do next and hit "a dead end where it's not obvious where they're supposed to go, you've lost them."Working out the kinksBut knowing what you want to do is one thing, and figuring out how to do it is another, A lot of research and development gets poured into creating these iphone case taser handsets, Both companies cited getting feedback from multiple organizations, including the San Diego Center for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People U.K..
Doro and GreatCall also hold numerous focus groups, collaborate with several retirement communities, and, of course, have their fair share of trial and error. In one of the first iterations of the PhoneEasy740, Doro included too many icons that demanded too much attention on the start screen. "It became too cluttered, though we thought we already reduced the number of icons to very few," Bergdahl said. On older Jitterbug models, the volume buttons were placed on the front of the clamshell phone. The thought process was that it'd be easier to press the volume rocker since it was where a user's fingers would be when the phone is held against a face anyway.