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What is good design in the eyes of older users?

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posted on 12.03.2012, 11:17 by N. Goddard, Colette Nicolle
With the population of older consumers increasing and with the recent changes in legislation and attitudes towards this group, there have been corresponding changes in product design practice and a growing attempt to adopt an inclusive design approach. This recognises that people can become excluded from using products, services or environments if the needs and capabilities of all potential users are not taken into account. The inclusive design approach has developed from collaborations between industry, designers and researchers. One major influence in this area is the i~design project, whose definition is simply that “inclusive design is better design” (EDC, 2011). The Inclusive Design Toolkit website, a key output from the i~design project, states that a successful product must be “functional, usable, desirable and ultimately profitable” and that a key to good design is to reduce the demand on the user when capabilities decline with age or disability (EDC, 2011). It is also important to consider more emotional aspects, such as social acceptability and whether the potential user would actually want to use or be seen using the product (Keates and Clarkson, 2003). Other authors also emphasise that whilst inclusive design research and practice to date have focused primarily on the physical accessibility and usability of products, a better understanding is required of people’s emotional needs, such as social acceptability and desirability of products (Coleman et al, 2007; Lee, 2010). Similar views regarding the required shift in design focus are reflected in a number of other sources: the need to consider the less tangible human factors such as identity, emotion, delight and selfexpression (Cassim et al, 2007); simplicity, aesthetics, pleasure, personality, conspicuousness and fashion (Pullin, 2009); the product’s visual appearance (Crilly et al, 2004); creating pleasurable experiences (Demirbilek and Sener, 2003; Jordan, 2000); and the importance of the emotional aspects of design for a successful product (Norman, 2004), as well as needs related to specific cognitive conditions (e.g. Baumers and Heylighen, 2010).



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GODDARD, N. and NICOLLE, C.A., 2012. What is good design in the eyes of older users? IN: Langdon, P. ... et al. (eds.) Designing inclusive systems: designing inclusion for real-world applications. London: Springer, pp. 175 - 184.


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This chapter was published in the book Designing Inclusive Systems: Designing Inclusion for Real-world Applications [© Springer]. The publisher's website is at: It was accepted for publication in the conference proceedings of the 6th Cambridge Workshop on Universal Access (UA) and Assistive Technology (AT), CWUAAT 2012, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, UK, 26-29 March 2012.



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Cambridge Workshops on Universal Access and Assistive Technology (CWUAAT);




Loughborough Publications