Don Norman on how design fails older consumers

As we age, we have more experience with life, which can make us better decision-makers and managers. Crystalized intelligence, it is called, and it gets better with experience. A caveat is that we often face physical changes that designers fail to account for into their work.

Vision deteriorates. The lens of our eyes harden, making focusing more difficult. I used to be able to read tiny text by holding it close to my eyes, but my inability to focus at close distances defeats that activity. Floaters and debris start accumulating inside the eye, which scatters the light on its way to the retina, reducing contrast and making it more difficult to see small, low-contrast objects. For the increasing number of people who have cataract surgery, the eye’s lenses have ben replaced with plastic, which usually have a fixed focus. (Artificial lenses that can be focused are under development.) A flashlight has become an essential item, whether the one built into many phones or carried separately, because illumination makes tiny type easier to read although even then, a magnifying glass might be useful.

I know the feeling. I have been railing for years about things like this. About app developers who don’t offer a choice of font sizes. About web developers who use colored fonts on black backgrounds (see the Movies section of the iTunes Store for some egregious examples of this). About the trend for low contrast fonts against light backgrounds.

The “elderly” demographic – and I’m not officially elderly – is growing, and is one of the largest demographics. Older people tend to have more disposable income. I don’t understand why designers are so solipsistic that they can’t design for everyone.

Source: Don Norman on how design fails older consumers