Loughborough University
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Designing out-of-box experiences for older adults: exploring the boundaries of inclusive design

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posted on 2013-11-27, 09:02 authored by Alison Burrows
This thesis investigates the Out-of-Box Experience (OoBE) of interactive consumer products for older adults, with a view to improve the User Experience (UX) of a product by manipulating factors of the OoBE. This research emerges in the context of current demographic trends, which see people living longer and in better health, and the increasing ubiquity of technology in modern life. The OoBE describes the very first stages of interaction with a new product, including acquisition, unpacking and setup. This crucial initial experience has the potential to influence product acceptance and therefore determine its future use. Creating a positive OoBE requires an empathic understanding of the intended users, as well as contextual knowledge about current practices. A review of the literature revealed that many of the difficulties older adults experience with technology concern elements of the OoBE, such as complicated documentation, technical jargon and inadequate support for inexperienced users. However, the absence of research on how to engage older adults during the OoBE of new technology reinforced the need for further research. To this end, two user studies were conducted with older people, followed by a design study with designers. The first study explored older adults relationship with technology and their current practices of the OoBE, using the Technology Biography method. The second study used cultural probes to investigate the social side of UX and its effect on personal feelings of independence. Data from these two studies were used to create four personas, which were used in the design study. This third and final study focused on whether the construct of social benefits could be operationalised within the OoBE of new technology. Collectively, the findings indicated that the involvement of other people during the OoBE can be a strong motivator for older people to take up and use technology. Far from impinging on individual perceptions of independence, some older people actively manipulate the OoBE in order to derive social benefits. This research thus contributes to the discussion of how Inclusive Design can evolve through the incorporation of social benefits, in order to generate desirable and successful future products.


Loughborough University



  • Design


© Alison Burrows

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en