Design patterns to enhance accessibility and use of social applications for older adults


Accessibility, usability, elder, digital divide, digital inclusion, social interaction, social networks, interaction patterns


The aim of this paper is to present a non-exhaustive set of 36 design patterns for interactive social applications used by older adults. This proposal represents a reliable starting point for designers/developers to easily incorporate usability in interfaces for said technology promoting technology acceptance, use and adoption among older adults. The proposed patterns were based on previous efforts commonly presented as a design criteria and guidelines to describe usability issues in this kind of interfaces, reinforcing those alternatives by specifying related usability issues and providing solutions in a pattern-fashion useful for designers/developers. Pertinence of the patterns was analyzed through a usability study implementing «heuristic evaluation» technique (frequently used in Human-Computer Interaction to obtain users’ perception on a particular design). The study was conducted from two perspectives: the vantage point from experts, and the perception of a social group of older adults. The analysis revealed the proposed patterns are conducive to create well-designed interfaces able to provide a better user experience, encouraging a positive impact in the quality of life in older adults.


Abad, L. (2014). Diseño de programas de e-inclusión para alfabetización mediática de personas mayores. Comunicar, 42,173-180. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Affonso, S.M., Watanabe, W.M., Beletato, E.P., & Fortes, R.P.M. (2010). Improving WCAG for Elderly Web Accessibility. SIGDOC, 2010, 175-182. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Agelight (2001). Interface Design Guidelines for Users of All Ages. Age Ligh LCC. ( (14-10-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Agudo, S., Pascual, M., & Fombona, J. (2012). Usos de las herramientas digitales entre las personas mayores. Comunicar, 39, 193-201. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Arfaa, J., & Wang, Y. (2014). A Usability Study on Elder Adults Utilizing Social Networks Sites. Duxu, 2014, 8.518, 50-61. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Braun, M.T. (2013). Obstacles to Social Networking Website Use among Older Adults. Journal of Computer in Human Behavior, 29, 673-680. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

CDC. (2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ( (17-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Cerrato, S.M. (2006). Impacto del teléfono móvil en la vida de los adolescentes entre 12 y 16 años. Comunicar, 27, 105-112. ( (05-08-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Connell, B.R., Jones, M., Mace, R., Mueller, J., Mullick, A., & al. (1997). The Principles of Universal Design. The Center for Universal Design, College of Design, NC State University. ( (25-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Davis, F.D. (1989). Perceived Usefulness, Perceived Ease of Use, and User Acceptance of Information Technology. MIS Quarterly, 13, 319-340. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Davis. F.D. (1993). User Acceptance of Information Technology: System Characteristics, User Perceptions and Behavioral Impacts. International Journal of Man Machine Studies, 38, 475-487. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

EFA. (2013). Easy Familiy Apps®. ( (25-08-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Flores-Vivar, J.M. (2009). Nuevos modelos de comunicación, perfiles y tendencias en las redes sociales. Comunicar, 33, 73-81. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Garcia-Vazquez, J.P., Rodríguez, M.D., & Andrade, A.G. (2009). Ambient Information Systems for Supporting Elder´s Independent Living at Home. IWANN, 5.518, 702-705. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-02481-8_105

Link Google Scholar

Gomes, G., Duarte, C., Coelho, J., & Matos, E. (2014). Designing a Facebook Interface for Senior Users. The Scientific World Journal, 1-8, DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Hanson, V.L. (2009). Age and Web Access: The Next Generation. W4A´09, 7-15. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Hope, A., Schwaba, T., & Piper, A.M. (2014). Understanding Digital and Material Social Communications for Older Adults. CHI´14, 3903-3912. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Kurniawan, S., & Zaphiris, P. (2005). Research-Derived Web Design Guidelines for Older People. Assets´05, 129-135. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Kwido. (2014). Kwido Making Life Easier. ( (18-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Lehtinen, V., Näsänen, J., & Sarvas, R. (2009). A Little Silly and Empty-Headed»-Older Adults´ Understandings of Social Networking Sites. BCS-HCI’09, 45-54. ( (01-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Lian, J.W., & Yen, D.C. (2014). Online Shopping Drivers and Barriers for Older Adults: Age and Gender Differences. Journal of Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 133-143. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Moreno, L., & Martínez, P. (2012). A Review of Accessibility Requirements in Elderly User´s Interactions with Web Applications. Interaccion’12, 47. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Moser, C., Fuchsberger, V., Neureiter, K., Sellner, W., & Tscheligi, M. (2011). Elderly´s Social Presence Supported by ICTs: Investigating User Requirements for Social Presence. SocialCom´11, 738-741. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Muñoz, D., Gutiérrez, F., Ochoa, S.F., & Baloian, N. (2013). Enhancing Social Interaction between Older Adults and their Families. IWAAL 2013, LNCS 8277, 47-54. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Nesbitt, K.V. (2005). Using Guidelines to Assist in the Visualisation Design Process. APVis ‘05, 45, 115-123. ( (13-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Nielsen, J. (1993). Usability Engineering. Mountain View. California: Morgan Kaufmann.

Link Google Scholar

Nielsen, J. (2013). Seniors as Web Users. NN/g Nielsen Norman Group. ( (24-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Páez, D.G., Ascanio, J.R., Giráldez, I., & Rubio, M. (2011). Integrating Personalized Health Care and Information Access for Elder People. ISAmI 2011, 33-40. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Patsoule, E., & Koutsabasis, P. (2012). Redesigning Web Sites for Older Adults: A Case Study. Petra´12, 13. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Pernice, K., & Nielsen, J. (2014). Usability Guidelines for Accessible Web design. NN/g Nielsen Norman Group. ( (15-08-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Renaud, K., & Van-Biljon, J. (2008). Predicting Technology Acceptance by Elderly: A Qualitative Study. SAICSIT´08, 210-219. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Rodríguez, J.A. (2005). Patrones en la Ingeniería del Software. Tono, 31-38.

Link Google Scholar

Telikin. (2014). Telikin A Simpler, Easy to Use Computer. ( (27-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

UN. (2013). World Population Ageing 2013. United Nations: Department of Economics and Social Affairs Population Division. ( (11-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Van-Welie, M., Van-der-Veer, G.C., & Eliëns, A. (2000). Patterns as Tools for User Interface Design. Tools for Working with Guidelines; 313-324. DOI:

Link Google Scholar

Venkatesh, V., Morris, M.G., Davis, G.B., & Davis, F.D. (2003). User Acceptance of Information Technology: Toward a Unified View. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425-478. ( (01-10-2014).

Link Google Scholar

W3C. (2008). Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). World Wide Web Consortium. ( (03-09-2014).

Link Google Scholar

Yang, H.H., Yu, C., Huang, C.H., & Yang, H.J. (2010). Elder Participation in Information Technology: A Qualitative Analysis of Taiwan Retirees. AIC´10, 306-311. ( (09-09-2014)

Link Google Scholar

Zaphiris, P., Kurniawan, S., & Ghiawadwala, M. (2007). A Systematic Approach to the Development of Research-Based Web Design Guidelines for Older People. Universal Access in the information Society, 6, 59-75. DOI:

Link DOI | Link Google Scholar

Technical information

Received: 30-10-2014

Revised: 15-11-2014

Accepted: 15-01-2015

Preprint: 15-04-2015

Publication date: 01-07-2015

Article revision time: 16 days | Average time revision issue 45: 46 days

Article acceptance time: 77 days | Average time of acceptance issue 45: 127 days

Preprint editing time: 198 days | Average editing time preprint issue 45: 247 days

Article editing time: 243 days | Average editing time issue 45: 292 days


Metrics of this article

Views: 21113

Abstract readings: 15469

PDF downloads: 5644

Full metrics of Comunicar 45

Views: 491780

Abstract readings: 376456

PDF downloads: 115324

Cited by

Cites in Web of Science

Veinot, Tiffany C.; Mitchell, Hannah; Ancker, Jessica S.. Good intentions are not enough: how informatics interventions can worsen inequality JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL INFORMATICS ASSOCIATION, 2018.

Gonzalez Onate, Cristina; Fanjul Peyro, Carlos. Mobile applications for the elderly: a study of their current strategy AULA ABIERTA, 2018.

Diaz-Prieto, Cristina; Garcia-Sanchez, Jesus-Nicasio. Online Gerontechnological Resources Analysis for Active Aging RASP-RESEARCH ON AGEING AND SOCIAL POLICY, 2017.

Rebollo-Catalan, Angeles; Mayor-Buzon, Virginia; Garcia-Perez, Rafael. Women's digital skills in the use of social network sites: differences by employment status RIE-REVISTA DE INVESTIGACION EDUCATIVA, 2017.

Martin Martin, Francisco Marcos. Title: Communication skills as determining factor in the elders use of ICTs IJERI-INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH AND INNOVATION, 2017.

Link Google Scholar


Cites in Scopus

Veinot, T.C., Mitchell, H., Ancker, J.S.. Good intentions are not enough: How informatics interventions can worsen inequality), Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, .

Rebollo-Catalán, Á., Mayor-Buzon, V., García-Pérez, R.. Women's digital skills in the use of social network sites: Differences by employment status [Competencias digitales de las mujeres en el uso de las redes sociales virtuales: Diferencias según perfil laboral]), Revista de Investigacion Educativa, .

Reid, S.E., Abdulrazak, B., Alas, M.. An exploratory framework assessing intrinsic, extrinsic motivators related to mobile device applications, attributes for the Canadian seniors), Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence, Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics), .

Cites in Google Scholar

Veinot, T. C., Mitchell, H., & Ancker, J. S. (2018). Good intentions are not enough: how informatics interventions can worsen inequality. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 25(8), 1080-1088.

Reid, S. E., Abdulrazak, B., & Alas, M. (2016, July). An Exploratory Framework Assessing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators Related to Mobile Device Applications and Attributes for the Canadian Seniors. In International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs (pp. 293-301). Springer, Cham.

Harari, I. (2018). Del telegrama a los tweets (Doctoral dissertation, Universidad Nacional de La Plata).

Reid, S. E., Abdulrazak, B., & Alas, M. (2017). The Underlying Motivations for Mobile Device Use by Seniors. Journal of Health Science, 5, 152-157.

Díaz-Prieto, C., & García-Sánchez, J. N. Analysis of online gerontechnology resources for active ageing.


NaifJabli, H., & Demir, F. The Usability Of King Khalid University Website: Assessing Effectiveness, Efficiency, And Satisfaction.


Cabrera Campuzano, K. A. (2016). Diseño de aplicaciones móviles de ingreso de texto para los adultos mayores (Bachelor's thesis, Quevedo: UTEQ).

Catalán, Á. R., Buzón, V. M., & Pérez, R. G. (2017). Competencias digitales de las mujeres en el uso de las redes sociales virtuales: diferencias según perfil laboral. Revista de Investigación Educativa, 35(2), 427-444.

González Oñate, C., & Fanjul Peyró, C. (2018). Aplicaciones móviles para personas mayores: un estudio sobre su estrategia actual.

Torres, M. J. G. (2016). El papel de la alfabetización digital en la empleabilidad de los trabajadores mayores. Píxel-Bit. Revista de Medios y Educación, (49), 25-38.

Azevedo, C. (2016). TIC e sociedades cada vez mais envelhecidas: uma contextualização de estudos no Brasil, em Portugal e em outros países. Verso e Reverso, 31(76), 14-25.

Pinto-Fernández, S., Muñoz-Sepúlveda, M., & Leiva-Caro, J. A. Uso de tecnologías de información y comunicación en adultos mayores chilenos* Uso de tecnologias de informação e comunicação em idosos chilenos Chilean Seniors’ Use.

Fernández, S. P., Sepúlveda, M. M., & Caro, J. A. L. (2018). Uso de tecnologías de información y comunicación en adultos mayores chilenos. CTS: Revista iberoamericana de ciencia, tecnología y sociedad, 13(39), 143-160.

Bastos, C. D. F. A. D. (2018). Demasiado velho para o digital? Envelhecimento ativo e os usos das TIC por pessoas mais velhas no Brasil e em Portugal.


Alternative metrics

How to cite

Luna-García, H., Mendoza-González, R., & Álvarez-Rodríguez, F. (2015). Design patterns to enhance accessibility and use of social applications for older adults. [Patrones de diseño para mejorar la accesibilidad y uso de aplicaciones sociales para adultos mayores]. Comunicar, 45, 85-94.



Post Office Box 527

21080 Huelva (Spain)


Editorial office

Creative Commons

This website uses cookies to obtain statistical data on the navigation of its users. If you continue to browse we consider that you accept its use. +info X