Bridging the Gap: Empowering Elderly Users Through Co-design

Bridging the Gap: Empowering Elderly Users Through Co-design

Self Discovery Empowering Elderly Users Through Co Design

Rittika, a Visual Designer at Merkle Inc., shares her journey of the hurdles in promoting digital literacy for elderly users

My name is Rittika, and I am a Visual Designer at Merkle Inc., where I work on e-retailing platforms, connected commerce, and design systems. I have worked with companies such as Walt Disney, Toshiba, and OCAD University across India, Canada, and France. My belief in ‘Good Design’ is that it is a service or product that solves problems, improves lifestyles, and enhances user satisfaction.

Additionally, I have co-authored two research papers that were presented at conferences and later published in ResearchGate, Google Books, World Health Organisation, and SpringerLink. In my free time, I enjoy reading, calligraphy, and learning about mythology.

During my early years in academia, I struggled with missing out on smaller details, which led to loopholes in my final outcomes. While conducting my thesis research on designing a gerontechnological (digital tools that are specially designed for elderly users) medium for elderly consumers, I failed to understand why my design was not encouraging elderly users to use the tools I curated for them. Despite extensive research, surveys, and interviews, the education tools I designed were not being used by elderly individuals, despite my efforts to teach them one-on-one.

Determined to deliver on time, I found support from my mother and professor. I realized that instead of designing the platform for the elderly users, I needed to design with them, facilitating a co-design methodology.

Alongside the elderly users, we identified loopholes in the design and empathized with their capabilities while using mobile devices. For instance, older adults require higher contrast and longer pace for reading. Using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), we completed an exemplary education tool to promote digital literacy.

This experience was not only a hurdle but also an opportunity to learn and grow. The importance of empathy and co-design methodologies to cater to diverse users is crucial in the design process. Good design requires a holistic approach that considers the users’ perspectives, abilities, and limitations. It is essential to iterate, test, and refine designs based on feedback from users to create a seamless user experience.

I would advise my fellow designers and aspiring creatives to follow this quote by William Shakespeare, “if there is a good will, there is a great way”. If you are determined and committed to achieve a goal, nothing can stop you from achieving it.

This article was last updated on November 27, 2023; Originally published on June 29, 2023

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