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The issue...

Usability is crucial for many older and disabled people, and without it many are unable to use mobile services at all. This does not mean it is a niche issue. The Panel's research shows that all users appreciate phones that are easy to use, and that simple changes could make them significantly easier for all users. This is important because it means that the business case for increasing usability is much larger than people might otherwise assume. 

Our objective...

To encourage action by manufacturers, operators and retailers that will increase usability of mobile phones for all users, including older and disabled users.

Our current position...

Key findings from the research are that:

  1. A number of simple improvements could benefit all users. The research identified a number of improvements that could be made to mobile handsets that would benefit all users, demonstrating that improving usability can have benefits for mainstream users while at the same time widening access for older and disabled users.
  2. Increased facility to customise could greatly increase usability for a wide range of users, including older and disabled users.
  3. Older and disabled people often do not have the information they need to choose a phone that meets their needs, or know where to get that information.

The report highlights a number of areas in which stakeholders could make improvements that would increase usability for all users, including older and disabled users. 

Areas where improvements can be delivered are:

  • Implementing basic hardware and software improvements that will increase usability. The starting point should be those areas that would improve usability for all users. E.g. ensuring phones provide feedback to indicate when a key has been pressed, have backlit key labels to make the numbers/letters/symbols on the keys easier to see, and that the phone size and shape allows one-handed use.
  • Maximising the opportunities offered by customisation, with pre-set options that can then be further refined.
  • Testing the usability of phones with consumers, including older and disabled consumers, in a way that takes account of their particular needs. Given the wide range of different needs and the complexity of ensuring that different features work well together, testing phones during and after the development process, including with older and disabled users, will be an important way of ensuring usability for a wide range of potential users.
  • Ensuring the sales and post-sales environment more effectively meets the needs of older and disabled people through a combination of better product availability, information and support.
  • Finding creative ways of providing mentoring and advice that would help people develop the confidence and skills to use the equipment.

Relevant links...

Usability report, Jan 2011

Our impact...

  • The Panel's research has brought together the views of consumers with an understanding of the market context and opportunities, generating a range of practical recommendations for increasing usability for all consumers.
  • The Panel has brought together a community of interested stakeholders stretching beyond those with whom the Panel or Ofcom usually engage.
  • The Panel's engagement with this wide range of stakeholders has raised awareness of the issue and generated buy-in to the recommendations, creating a strong platform to move the issue forward.
  • The Panel's dissemination activity has increased the level of debate on this issue, generating greater awareness and an appetite for change.  

Future Action to be Taken...

  • Presentation of the findings and recommendations to the Westminster eForum event on the Future of Mobile in March 2011.
  • Presentation of the findings and recommendations to the eAccessibility Forum meeting in April 2011.
  • Working with Ofcom to bring stakeholders together to discuss how best to take forward the recommendations.

>> Making Phones Easier to use: Views From Consumers

>> Our Actions, Outputs and Stakeholder Engagement...