Typography for Older Adults. How important is it?

As UX designers, there is always a need to empathize with people around us, which is one of the prerequisites in being one. In our workplace as well, we need to take special care and attention while creating a product for a specific user group: which is the Older Adults (Note: wouldn’t want to mention this sweet group as Senior Citizens, because not everyone likes being thought of as a senior citizen)

Now comes a question as to why I have started this blog with such an introduction. Well here goes:

It was raining heavily last week and we were out of grocery. Being a tech-savvy and frequent mobile app user, I downloaded an online grocery shopping application in my mom’s phone and showed it to her. She wanted to buy a food product and before buying, she wanted to check the ingredients used in it. Since we didn’t see any description related to it, we checked on the images present to see if there could be one image which showed the ingredients. I helped her in searching the image by zooming in so that she could read better.

Even though the image was zoomed in, my mom was unable to read the contents as she was wearing a bifocal lens and she took some time to read the contents properly. She immediately got impatient and told me to exit this app. And her conclusion was, “Instead of this, I would rather go to the market and buy, even if the weather was unfavourable.”

The reason why she told this was because internally she was feeling embarrassed with the fact that she wasn’t able to figure out on her own and she required help to fix it.

This is not just one example. Let me cite two famous stories:

Story 1: Lead Actor – Steve Harvey, Event – Miss Universe 2015

Steve Harvey(61 years), is a famous American comedian, television host, radio personality and an actor. Due to his immense popularity, he was asked to host Miss Universe 2015 which took place in Las Vegas.

While announcing the final result, he mistakenly named the first runner-up “Miss Columbia” as the winner. A few minutes later after the crowning took place, Harvey spoke on live television that he read the results wrong and that “Miss Philippines” was the new Miss Universe 2015.You can see the event series collage below:

Now comes the question of how did this happen?

Assuming this is not a publicity stunt, Harvey blamed the teleprompter and his cue card (which was presented to him), for being confusing and making this mess happen.

Story 2: Lead Actors – Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway, Event – 89th Academy Awards

Warren Beatty (81 years) is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker and actor, while Faye Dunaway (77 years) is an Academy Award-winning actress.

During the 89th Academy Awards, both of them were given the privilege to present the “Best Motion Picture” award.

Same as Story 1, while announcing the result, they had mentioned the wrong picture name where “Moonlight” was the actual winner and Faye Dunaway announced the winner as “La La Land”. Take a look at the event series below:

Again, how did this happen? As per sources, they were given the wrong envelope which was labelled as “Actress in a Leading Role”.

In fact, both the presenters especially Warren Beatty took some time to announce the winner and he wanted to clarify this with Faye. As per Warren, he saw the name Emma Stone(lead actress) and film name “La la land”. All of this happened, during a peak moment where they felt the pressure with the anxious audience around them and unfortunately, they announced the wrong movie name.

Similarities between these two stories

Imagine, if any other older adults have faced something like this, it would be so humiliating and awkward.

In the case of these public figures, Twitter users totally roasted them for all the mistakes that they had made and this will be talked and spoofed for a very long time.

From these two stories, these are my observations:

  1. Presenters were from the Older Adults user group.
  2. Both the stories had “Oh My God” moments.
  3. Cue card designs presented to them made them confused.

From the design of the cue cards, especially for certain events of such stature, I personally feel that these are not well designed cards and both need to be revamped from scratch in order to ensure that such embarrassing moments do not happen in the near future.

Let’s take a look at each of the cue card designs:

Miss Universe Cue card:

Flaws:

  1. Unwanted white space: There was too much of white space which was certainly unexploited because from a first glance this would look like a postcard. Even though whitespace is important in many designs, the way we position or align the design elements within the white space makes a lot of difference.
  2. Improper Layout: The natural narrative layout is top-to-bottom or left-to-right in order to process information. In this specific design, the 3rd and 2nd position (i.e, the “2nd runner-up” and “1st runner-up”) labels were printed on the top left side, whereas the Winner section was mentioned at the bottom right, which appeared as a non -linear fashion layout.
  3. Unidentified Visual Cue: The label, naming the winner is certainly easy to miss, because of its position. If Harvey holds the card in a such a way that your thumb covers up the word “Philippines”, it is quite certain that he would not see this portion. In the footage of the announcement, it is seen that Harvey was holding a mic in his left hand and the card in his right hand.
  4. Positioning: Also the position of the winner mentioned at the bottom right looks like a footnote and could be easily ignored.This made Harvey fixate on the spelling of “1st” in “1st Runner Up” and interpreted this information as the winner’s name.
  5. Font type and size: Font size used here is too small for anyone to read and different fonts are used. The winner’s name was of size 10pt, which is too small. In such an extreme anxious situation, if the information is all over the place, it could lead to a lot of errors.
  6. Typo: Spelling of elimination is misspelt as “ELMININATION”.
  7. Usage of unwanted or confusing words: Words or phrases used here are very confusing or maybe harsh. You can understand by seeing the points below:
  1. The word ‘elimination’ would not be an appropriate title here, because like the host says “No matter what, all are winners”.
  2. Seeing the text ‘3 to 1’ would be interpreted in any way. I initially, thought that it has got to do something with the printing of the cue card or so. Then from a blog which I read earlier, I later realized that the usage of this text was for the results to be read from the contestant who came third to the contestant who came first.
  3. The word “Runner-up” is definitely confusing to me. The second runner-up is meant as 3rd place and first runner-up is meant as 2nd place, which I personally feel could be mentioned in the form of position instead of “runner -ups”. But this seems to be a traditional phrase followed by all 66 hosts throughout the Miss Universe contests.

Keeping all these flaws in mind, many UX/UI designers across the world have provided their revamped cue card design versions, from their respective blogs. From these blogs, I have selected 6 options provided here:

I have put in my own redesign version as well, in the form of a wireframe:

From this design, usually the host first announces the third place winner and only then they would announce the main winner or maybe the second place winner. In that case the position of ‘Miss Universe’ or ‘First runner up’ would be interchanged accordingly. I have also placed the ‘Miss Universe’ logo at the bottom to showcase its branding.

89th Academy Awards – Best Picture cue card:

Flaws (in the cue card):

  1. Mixup on the envelopes: First and foremost the envelopes that the host received was wrong. Instead of the “Best Picture” envelope, they received the “Best Actress” envelope.
  2. Positioning: It is very well known that it is the Oscars that is taking place and the main purpose of the card is to read out the winners of a specific category, depending on what the host needs to announce. In this case, the position of “Best Picture” could be placed at the topmost, while the Oscar logo can be placed at the bottom.
  3. Font size and emphasis: The title, be it “Best Picture” or “Best Actress” had a small font size and they have used the font emphasis as Italics which could be very difficult for the older adults to read. This is also another reason which created the whole screw up, due to which the hosts (esp Warren) found that something was wrong and didn’t realize that they received the wrong envelope, which created all of the confusion.
  4. Text weight/Emphasis: Although it is nice that the wwinner’sname (i.e, Film/Individual contributors) and the associated people/film are given equal ffont weight but during the show, the host(s) start announcing it as :

“And the oscar goes to ” and the camera is then moved to those people who would be receiving the award. In this case, more weightage could be given to the winner’s name.

Again to rectify these flaws, many UX/UI designers had provided a redesign on the cue cards, which I think solves the issue. However there are a variety of options and only with testing a decision can be made to choose the best one.

Flaws (in the envelope design):

Text is not readable in the envelope, because the color of the envelope is red while the font text colour is coming from the golden colour family. This does not go together due to the contrast between these two colours, making the text not easy to follow. However the design for the envelope had changed in the following year which makes it better:

2018 Oscars

To conclude, as UX designers while creating any designs for your audience, you also need to empathise with the Older Adults, especially in the case of typography so that they too enjoy the experiences similar to what younger adults do in this world. Meanwhile, all you readers are welcome to post in your cue card redesigns in this post. You can also put in your takeaways or comments related to this article as well.

4 thoughts on “Typography for Older Adults. How important is it?

  1. This is a great insight. In both these events, they over emphasise the secrecy and hence make the text ‘non glance-able’ by others and in the process mess up the usability.

  2. Spot on! Never thought how the UX/UI design could have such an impact on the goof ups. After watching Miss Universe ’15 I kept thinking “how stupid can Steve be”. Now I realize it’s not completely his fault.

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