WISE: a Wizard Interface Supporting Enhanced Usability

As computers become ubiquitous, the task of making them usable becomes increasingly important. Repeated failures by implementation experts to build usable systems have motivated the creation of successful design approaches by interaction designers. However, there are still many end user groups that have not successfully overcome the difficulties they perceive in computer use. Such groups include individuals with unique needs, such as physical or mental disabilities, and those with agerelated challenges. As a larger percentage of Americans are considered “old” (60+), the lack of a system tailored to the needs of this age demographic has resulted in a part of the population that is disconnected from the rest of the world. The current state of software which targets older adults’ ability to use computers focuses on physical issues while largely ignoring the volumes of gerontological cognitive research that could make computers not only usable but also intuitive for older adults.

This paper describes WISE, an alternative OS and application UI that specifically targets the cognitive deficits of older adults. WISE leverages both the existing body of research and the exciting Apple Cocoa API (Application Program Interface) for Objective-C and AppleScript to build a user interface layer tailored to the needs of older users. The focus was placed on a quality design by using an API and scripting language closely coupled to an operating system (OS), in this case Macintosh OS X. Further, WISE respects the guiding principles of linear interaction, effective cognitive strategy prompting, uniform limited scope, and accessibility as we explore simplified interaction methods to support older adults.

This paper is an expanded version of the extended abstract, by the same name and author, accepted to ASSETS 2006’s student research competition. ASSETS is the international ACM SIGACCESS Conference.

By: Joshua Hailpern

Published in: RC24015 in 2006


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