Designing for Dynamic Diversity: Interfaces for Older People

Peter Gregor, Alan Newell, and Mary Zajicek


This paper has accumulated more than 260 citations, making it one of the most highly cited papers in the ASSETS proceedings. The paper describes two concepts: Design for Dynamic Diversity (D3), and User sensitive inclusive design. These concepts are considered frequently in the literature, with more than a thousand uses for D3, and more than 2400 for user sensitive inclusive design. The latter was first introduced by Newell and Gregor in an earlier paper. While that original earlier paper addressed specifically design for older people, the ideas that paper discussed have found wider relevance since the publication of the 2002 paper, as these large numbers suggest. Citations of the paper appear in work on pointing device design, mobile HCI, spoken dialog systems, home healthcare, and more. Citations continue to appear, with 97 since 2011, and 26 since 2014.

For its role in focusing attention on the changing nature of user requirements, and the need for design approaches that can address this challenge, we are delighted to present the authors the SIGACCESS 2015 ASSETS Paper Impact Award.

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In this paper, we describe why designers need to look beyond the twin aims of designing for the ‘typical’ user and designing “prostheses”. Making accessible interfaces for older people is a unique but many-faceted challenge. Effective applications and interface design needs to address the dynamic diversity of the human species. We introduce a new design paradigm, Design for Dynamic Diversity, and suggest a methodology to assist its achievement, User Sensitive Inclusive Design.To support our argument for a new form of design we report experimentation, which indicates that older people have significantly different and dynamically changing needs. We also put forward initial solutions for Designing for Dynamic Diversity, where memory, vision and confidence provide the parameters for discussion, and illustrate the importance of User Sensitive Inclusive Design in establishing a framework for the operation of Design for Dynamic Diversity.

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