25 May 2007

Designing the user experience of a phone for the elderly

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Jitterbug
“Jitterbug’s well-designed mobile—and the smart service behind it—was created to appeal to even the most technophobic seniors,” writes Jesse James Garrett, Adaptive Path president, in a Business Week article.

Selling technology to technophobes may not seem like smartest business strategy, but when the technophobes in question are the 100 million baby boomers and seniors in the U.S., bridging the technology gap starts to look like a real market opportunity.

For mobile-industry veteran Arlene Harris, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Harris is the mastermind behind Jitterbug, a company launched last October that combines a unique mobile phone (designed by Jitterbug and manufactured by Samsung) with a suite of services designed to meet the needs of older users. Because Jitterbug controlled both the product and service design, it’s able to deliver a seamless, innovative cross-channel experience, a rarity in the mobile-phone industry.

Providing familiar touchstones to ease the mobile-phone experience became a major part of Jitterbug’s design after early research showed that older users found conventions like signal strength meters unfamiliar and confusing. Instead, when you open a Jitterbug phone it emits—get this—a dial tone.

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