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Laurie Orlov's blog

For big tech, "Ready, Fire, Aim" design approaches are user-hostile

What happens when engineers believe that no matter what, the customers will buy? Rant on. Look at the forum discussions of problems after Apple’s release in November, or consider Google’s Gemini self-humiliation.  Will users turn in their iPhones in disgust? Stop using Gmail in protest? What about the Tesla that is so cool it does not have to identify clearly how to open the door, or put the car into drive or reverse? Was the car returned? Will customers return a device they don’t understand? Consider Windows 11 updates are tormenting users, again per Microsoft’s own forum. Will people give up using the PC? Not likely. 

It's time for solutions -- not products -- for aging in place

You know homeowners plan to ‘age in place’ – repeated across all surveys.  It makes sense to them – they like their homes, locations, their familiar neighborhoods, shops, their friends, and neighbors. Statistics underpin the goal for 93% of adults 55+.  And they are willing to spend on services to enable them to remain there – home security, food and supplies delivery, and transportation services if they choose to or must go places without driving. They have fueled growth in the home remodeling businesses, spending on bathroom modifications and other aging-related enablers, especially home care – which may be an out-of-reach luxury for many.

Did you miss one? March blogs lament deteriorating user experience

The decline of design.  As interviews proceed for the upcoming report, The Future of the Tech User Experience, all agree.  The deteriorating user experience, aka UX, is the result of fragmentation across multiple devices, portals, and websites. Product development has superseded UX. The pre-development focus group has been largely abandoned in favor of a post release shock-and-awe experience both for developers (bad PR) and customers (just plain bad).  And it is not just tech – consider the impenetrable smart TV interface, the microwave button-display combination, the new car that lacks readable warning lights and other user interface issues.  Here are the blog posts from March:

The tech user experience today – the customer does not matter 

Has the  tech user experience substantially improved?  For years device and software tech ‘improved’ to a point of widespread optimism about our tech future. Certainly access has improved: Ninety-five percent of Americans use the Internet and more than 80% have broadband at home. Today there are numerous programs to subsidize access, and   smartphone penetration has exceeded 92%.  One would believe this ubiquity of access might make us hopeful that we are now in the era of tech helping consumers of all ages, no matter what task or level of knowledge.  

Could conversational AI help the tech user experience?

Tech user experiences are deteriorating at a rapid rate – for all.  If you have encountered any of the following, you know.  The absurdity of two-factor authentication within a single device, long complex passwords, five years of remembered password history to prevent re-use.  And that’s before you have logged into a site that could simply be a news media or site or Gmail that just wants to display insulting and absurd ads now that you have been ‘authenticated’. Or you can examine the behavior of the same software applications across multiple devices.  You may have noticed that scam innovation is beginning to outpace the product development cycles in other categories – (although some scammers seem able to be scammed themselves).

Challenging Innovators to Design for Older Adults: 2014 -2024

In the tech innovation world, a decade is both a long and short time.  In 2014, AARP’s Health Innovation @50+ sponsored a report, Challenging Innovators: Matching Offerings to the Needs of Older Adults.  It was published in June of 2014 in conjunction with a Venture Summit event run by Mary Furlong and Associates. This was exactly a decade prior to this year’s What’s Next Longevity Venture Summit. 

Did you miss one? Aging and Health posts from (almost) February 2024

The frustration of the user experience. February was short but busy – but a topic emerged on the last day of January that is beginning to take shape in the form of interviews and insights from others.  All agree that the user experience, whether it is a car, a microwave, Google Gemini or a smartphone is deteriorating, possibly due to nearly-endless but not necessarily useful ‘innovation’ from developers.  Whether it is the ‘cockpit’ of a car that may now have three screens, an authentication process on a website that requires another device, or an app that expects a password that has not been used in the past five years.  Here are the blog posts:

The user experience with Google: You are the product for better or worse

Consider Google and its tightly coupled products.  You launch the search engine on your phone and are surprised to see all of these ‘news’ items about local topics that have appeared in your Gmail inbox. How personalized. A few years ago, a $395 million settlement with 40 states was reached about Google’s lack of clarity about its location tracking, which users thought they had turned off in settings. An apology followed, along with many more lawsuits and fines, including some large ones in Europe. Did anything change? Not really.  In 2024, as a result of European pressure, Google announced how to disconnect some ‘Linked Services’ in Europe, a euphemism for passing your data (you) from one Google product to another, a feature that may appear in the US one day, though will it really change anything? Doubtful.

The User Experience Confounds Cooks, Drivers, and TV Viewers

User experience non-design – it’s not just tech devices – consider the stove’s cockpit.’  Studying the screen plus button choices on a new Microwave, one wonders who tested this interface?  Did they really think that the combinations were self-explanatory and intuitive?   Or is the convention of poor design so inherent in microwave, oven, and washing machine interfaces, that a ‘cockpit’ design is expected (both by the vendor and the user).   Of course, a cockpit is an appropriate term – imagine a pilot sitting down in the left seat of an airplane with zero training on what to touch first.

Who knows the current population and age distribution of older adults?

Publicly available up-to-date stats about the older adult population is weak or non-existent.  The most recent version of ChatGPT admits it cannot state the current population in the US that is aged 75+.  Nor can Google. This is somewhat surprising, given the angst in business and market predictions about the aging of the US population and the potential doom that it portends. But anyway, the answer is buried in Census tables. Would you be surprised to learn that there are 25.7 million people aged 75+ today?  That 14.8 million are women and 10.8 million are men?  Would it surprise that 42% of the 65+ population (60.5 million) is aged 75+?

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