04 August 2010

Universal Design As A Beginning, Not An End

image I’ve been blogging about MIT AgeLab and Dr. Joseph Coughlin since 2006:

 MIT AgeLab

Bookmarked Brains

Fast Company Names Joseph Coughlin to Top 100 List

An excellent post yesterday:

Fashion, Function & Fun: Product Design Demands of Older Baby Boomer Consumers
imageToo many designers, marketers and concerned observers have declared universal design to be the universal answer to meet the new needs of the growing numbers of older baby boomer consumers. While not altogether incorrect, they are woefully incomplete in their hopes and claims ... Even if an older consumer can easily use a technology, they must value its functionality before investing the money, time to learn, let alone adopt a new way to do tasks that they may already achieve with 'tried and true' methods.

This mirrors a few things I’ve said over the years. The pull quote from the cover of my book, first edition published in early 2005:

coveradvbb“It will be the Baby Boomers who will be the first to pick and choose, to ignore or be seduced by leading-edge technology marketing. There’s a simple reason for this. We have the money to buy this stuff. Experts say we’ll continue to have the money for at least the next twenty years. Write us off at your own peril.

More from Joe Coughlin:

Research suggests that older users critically assess whether a new technology clearly provides greater value than the existing means they use to satisfy a given need before spending money or time. If the value is not appreciably greater than the existing means, then the likelihood of spending the time to learn how to use, let alone adopt, the technology is very low.

From my book (© 2005, 2007):


Apply the above to smart phones and apps, and just about any technology product.  Baby Boomers do want and demand choices, features.  They just won’t be interested in or use them all.

Dr. Coughlin:

Usability, universal or otherwise, is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of product purchase, adoption and use.

The above quote is likewise true when marketing and advertising to the 50+ demo.  Do not assume that Universal Design is a Unique Selling Proposition.

Update, August 7:

Rolling Rains Report – Take It To The Next Level

Boomers Driving and Demanding Innovation by Dr. Joseph Coughlin (CNBC)

Update, August 19:

Marketing Universal Design
by Louis Tenenbaum  August 19, 2010
image I was catching up on some of my colleague’s writing today starting with Laurie Orlov’s blog Aging in Place Technology Watch about Aging in Place as a Crisis of Opportunity for CCRCs . Laurie referred to a piece by MIT Age Lab’s Joe Coughlin in his blog, Disruptive Demographics, called Should I Stay or Should I Go? These are both great pieces, sucking me right in the way the web does, ‘helping’ whole days to slip away unnoticed. This is time well spent.

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