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Flat interfaces are nearly unusable for the seniors in my life. Below is a list of UX issues my live-in seniors have regularly, and that they DO NOT learn their way out of. Not specifically flat based, but these changes have been amplified by the flat/minimalist redesigns.

1.Icons are only useful for users that already know what they do. Zero value UX wise for new users. Labels matter, especially on mobile where hover is not an option. Having a "walkthrough" on first load is not a replacement. Also, non-native users do not know about hover tooltips, and they will not learn that behavior, they find them almost exclusively by accident.

2.Gradients on mobile, especially with power save, make apps and pages unreadable for everyone, but especially seniors.

3.Hamburgers and triple dots are not visual indicators for non-native mobile users.

4.Swipe is not an replacement for any UX process for non-native mobile users.

5.Canceling/backing out of any workflow is rarely obvious on flat/minimal designs. Seniors click/tap the wrong thing ALOT. Some giant percentage of their time is spent trying to reverse an action.

6.Zoom is king. Non-button looking buttons get even worse if you remove their context. Mouse over only context buttons might as well be invisible.

7.Seniors do not know what blue/purple/green text means. The underline is the only thing my seniors understand. Also, they click pictures, all pictures, because they are the only thing on these apps/pages that actually look like they are clickable.(see number 6 buttons)

I am in my mid-twenties and some of these issues I too have them. I mistakenly tap thing I didn't mean to a lot of times, especially when walking or on public transit. Guessing what is a button or not, or when it is one what the icon means involves ontology. I hate guwssing what swipes do and Idk how am I supposed to grok that one time silly tutorial and remember how to use the app again two weeks later.

If the native UI toolkit is a language the my phone is the tower of babel. And I hate that with passion and fury.

Basically every day that I interact with users has this exchange:

"Click the hamburger icon to open the menu."

"Excuse me?"

"The three parallel lines; I agree, it makes zero sense, but now you know."

"See those three horizontal lines?"


"People are calling those a hamburger"

"Cool. I see it, buns and a patty. What next?"

"It's signage for the thing you do to get a menu of options and settings. Now click the hamburger...."

That's how I have always done it. Bring things up with context so they are always getting a little bit of UX culture along the way.

Frankly, I hate flat design. The visual hints are a very good thing, and I have found explaining them once multiplies through all future interactions.

This crap requires a lot more fundamental explanation a lot more of the time.

As far as I'm concerned, flat is a regression. Maybe it's more efficient, but just in machine terms. It's not in human terms.

Maybe if you just say, "Click the menu icon in the corner."

"What menu icon?"

I've tried; three parallel lines in a flat UI do not indicate "menu" to a great many users; including myself, at one point in time.

Well, going forward I think it will be more commonly referred to as a menu icon rather than a hamburger icon. It's almost pervasive on phones now. Do you think the stacked dots are better than stacked lines? A mini-menu icon? It's helpful to have some small icon for the menu on mobile devices so it doesn't take up as much screen space. What is a better alternative?

Personally, I turn off icons in apps that allow me to, and stick with words. Mobile is sort of a user experience hell for me; touch screens just don't seem to work reliably.

That's not them having trouble with the UI/UX, that's them flat out now knowing any sort of fundamental computer usage patterns.

What is the point of studying the human-computer interface if not to enable humans to use computers?

Also, I'm a programmer in my 20s and I get confused by mobile apps all the time.

Indeed. The one with the advanced degree specialized in UI is the designer, not the user. If the designer doesn't use that training to help the masses do their jobs, the resources Society spend on training the designer go wasted.

I don't see how any of this is against flat. What would you rather have? Windows XP Luna? Old iOS skeumorphism (which interestingly is underlined in materialistic so not sure if I spelled it wrong)?

Material design is flat I think and is very good. I'm sure if we stick with it, it will be very obvious to those who will be old with me. What can we do to make it useful for old folks today?

It's not physically possible to design a UI that's going to be intuitive for all 7 billion human beings, there will always be people who don't 'get it' or make mistakes. We've come a long, long way from the days of Windows 98 and certain things are somewhat intuitive, like the hamburger menus or the swipe gestures on mobile.

I think this simply boils down to people having to learn how things work, and being able to adapt to the form factor being used. Be it mobile, tablet or desktop. There are UI conventions across platforms although that gap is being bridged somewhat (many desktop websites have hamburger menus now, for example).

Software changes and so does UI, not much that can be done except better education, otherwise we'd still be looking at the ancient windows desktop interface...

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