In this second, and final, event of Memory-Friendly Neighbourhoods Phase Two, we brought together around 30 delegates to critique a number of websites (including our own), share tips and techniques for making sites more user friendly for people with dementia, and prioritise potential future work streams.
The event took place at the Scottish Universities Insight Institute in Glasgow on Tuesday 17th January 2017.
The opening presentation was given by Alastair Cox, web designer and developer, who outlined the groups and individuals we had spoken to over the course of the project, and presented what they had shared with us about how they use day-to- day internet-based technologies, how easy they find using the internet, and what they would change about the digital experience, if they could.
In Alastair’s presentation (slides 16-40), we heard about how people living with dementia who use internet-based technologies tend to do so to keep in contact with friends and family and for recording, reminding and reminiscing. But when it comes to technology that is less ‘consequence free’, like apps and websites that facilitate financial transactions (banking, buying groceries, booking travel etc.), many people do not use them to their full potential, often because they lack the confidence in their own skills to do so without “getting something wrong”.
There are important implications here for technology developers and their clients, given that many key services are moving away from face-to- face transactions towards online service provision. In the final part of his presentation (slides 43-54), Alastair identified 11 positive things that service providers can do to help close the digital exclusion gap, as well as exploring the potential benefit of tools and techniques such as microinteractions (slides 55-60) and onboarding (slides 61-65) to people living with dementia.
After the presentation, our participants worked in groups to critique screenshots from a range of websites that people commonly use, both to find information and, if they feel confident, make transactions. These included websites for banking, grocery shopping and booking travel.
We also asked delegates to look at our own website, including our ideas for improving the user experience. Drawing on the knowledge shared in our opening presentation, conversations about all four sites tended to focus on colour, contrast, text size, hierarchy of information, the ‘busy-ness’ of pages, and whether images and icons were easy to interpret or distracting.
The final session of the day focused on five recommendations for future activity by stakeholders to tackle digital exclusion. First in small groups, and then in a plenary session, delegates prioritised these recommendations in the order they appear below…
1. Enable more people with dementia to get involved in design and usability testing for feeding back into existing accessibility guidelines.
2. Investigate training options, such as a community-led approach, to build people’s confidence and skills.
3. Create a knowledge base of ‘peer reviewed’ resources, i.e. sites and apps recommended by other people with dementia, and practical guides for using them.
4. Widen the focus of activity to look at the dementia-friendly usability / application of new technology areas, such as smart-home devices and wearable/fitness devices.
5. Create a framework of practical web developer resources for those building websites and apps.