Synapse: Interactive Guidance by Demonstration with Trial-and-Error Support for Older Adults to Use Smartphone Apps


As smartphones are widely adopted, mobile applications (apps) are emerging to provide critical services such as food delivery and telemedicine. While bring convenience to everyday life, this trend may create barriers for older adults who tend to be less tech-savvy than young people. In-person or screen sharing support is helpful but limited by the help-givers’ availability. Video tutorials can be useful but require users to switch contexts between watching the tutorial and performing the corresponding actions in the app, which is cumbersome to do on a mobile phone. Although interactive tutorials have been shown to be promising, none was designed for older adults. Furthermore, the trial-and-error approach has been shown to be beneficial for older adults, but they often lack support to use the approach. Inspired by both interactive tutorials and trial-and-error approach, we designed an app-independent mobile service, Synapse, for help-givers to create a multimodal interactive tutorial on a smartphone and for help-receivers (e.g., older adults) to receive interactive guidance with trial-and-error support when they work on the same task. We conducted a user study with 18 older adults who were 60 and over. Our quantitative and qualitative results show that Synapse provided better support than the traditional video approach and enabled participants to feel more confident and motivated. Lastly, we present further design considerations to better support older adults with trial-and-error on smartphones.

ACM Interaction Mobile Wearable Ubiquitous Technology 2022