In part 1, I set up the context for championing a digital world that was genuinely empathically designed with an older user in mind. Thinking beyond just standard accessibility paradigms calls for a ground-up design and new OS-level rule sets that would incentivise — and even enforce — app developers to cater for this target group. And it would make total business sense.
There are many unknowns and predictions about what our future will look like. But one thing is fact: the entire developed world will see a surge in their over 60’s population in the coming decades. This will be a large and wealthy customer base with time on their hands and are seeking to fully participate in the digital revolution just like the rest of us.
In this 2nd part, I explore three scenarios to bring to life what the empathic digital experience could look like. It is by no means the only possibility, nor am I seeking to define this as a finished design, but more so to trigger dialogue and spark the imagination. Let’s move beyond the paradigm that an elderly phone is a dumb phone with big buttons and a loud enough speaker!
Since the advent of SMS, and later VOIP and data connectivity, we’ve ‘enjoyed’ an ever-expanding —often bewildering— choice of messaging and calling apps.
While the competition has pushed developers to add features such as voice messages, video calls, stickers and, more recently, emojis and memojis, it has also meant the interfaces have only become more complex.
In reality, we think in terms of who we want to call, not through which app we want to do it through. How often have we found ourselves scratching our heads trying to remember whether that message was on WhatsApp, Telegram, Line, or Messenger… the list goes on.
The adverse side of competition means that each service provider is fighting to grow their user base. This has moved us away from a ‘callee-first’ paradigm. Imagine that rather than the caller choosing which app to use, the preference is already set by the callee. So a mother wanting to call her son need only press their name. The son would have the option to set their preferred app or ID to be reached at.
It’s a small yet hugely significant paradigm change. Add to that the ability for the callee to manage the caller’s settings, we can finally put an end to call frustrations like cameras turned off, mics on mute, or best of all— accidental hang-ups trying to figure out which button to press!
Photos are precious and powerful repositories of our memories and milestones. No matter how significant or insignificant, these immortalised snapshots of our lives move us regardless of age. Since the advent of decent cameras embedded into our phones, the ability to instantly upload and share a staggering volume of photos has exploded.
Managing the 14000+ photos on your phone is a task no one has been able to provide an elegant solution for. I based my cursory research on two critical questions— “How do you manage all the photos on your phone?” The answer is often “I don’t”. I follow up with, “And do you backup your photos?” The answer is “No”, with a slight look of concern.
Today, photo apps are a digital expression of how we took, kept and viewed print photos in the past — the paradigm of the ‘Camera Roll’ and the ‘Photo Album’. Curating, deleting, and organising these huge collections into sensible albums becomes the reserve of the few highly and efficiently organised types blessed with a lot of free time!
Here we can imagine how context can play a role: to weave the metadata available in images to start presenting them in a way that tells a story. Apple and Google have started to offer this feature based on time, location and face recognition. What is missing is a participatory element to take out the ‘best guess’ or random compilations and instead allow the viewer to artistically direct the creation of collections of significant moments, people and places that are part of someone’s life story.
As we grow older, we tend to look back more than look forward.
The photos act as a compass that guides the creator of those images and the audience they are sharing it with to tell that story in a meaningful and engaging way.
As a final paradigm on where technology can take us as a companion, we can explore how our interfaces can switch from a bewildering grid of app icons to meaningful nudges that connect all this data we hold into a relevant and context-sensitive call to action.
Imagine: my Home Screen is now transformed into a collection of triggers that accompany me through my day. The future of the widget concept if you like.
Tiles that offer meaningful actions:
‘You haven’t connected to your best friend Andrew in a few weeks, would you like to call them?’
Or maybe because you worked in the construction industry for 30 years, ‘Have a look at the latest building design from Singapore with green bridges and a rooftop running track’ — a talking point to bring up at dinner later in the evening.
In essence, this is the reverse of what social media is trying to do — deduce and second guess our preferences so they can target us with more ads. Instead, can we find a way to simply and elegantly train our devices to know our preferences, facilitate a rich interaction with our loved ones, and even help us document our own life story.
Want to pioneer the Empathic Digital Experience approach for your own brand of products and services? At Chemistry, we help companies transform and adapt their businesses to create meaningful products and services that put people (and the planet) first. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s collaborate!
Managing Director at Chemistry
Creating meaningful customer centric solutions for complex organisations
Chemistry was founded in 2000 with the belief that great ideas come from the synergy of minds.
Today we are an Experience Design consultancy, based in Singapore & Amsterdam, driven by an international team of multidisciplinary creatives.