Improving the Inclusivity of Older Adults on Social Networking Sites
: Recommendations for Design and Practice

  • Chris Norval

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis explores and presents a number of ways in which social networking sites (SNSs) can be made more inclusive toward older adults. These suggestions are derived from discussions with older adults, and are evaluated by Internet users over 60.

    The steps taken in this research can be broken down into different stages. The first stage involves conducting focus groups with older adults, encouraging discussions about both positive and negative aspects of SNSs. From the transcripts of these focus groups, the next stage involves using a method based on thematic analysis to analyse and categorise findings, which recommendations for inclusive SNSs are then derived from. The next stage sees these recommendations evaluated with older adults in two ways: for participant agreement and for impact, conducting a comparative analysis on two user interface versions of a prototype SNS. The final part of the thesis takes each of the verified recommendations and investigates how mainstream SNSs do and do not conform, suggesting design components which adhere to the findings that could be used effectively for the creation of a new SNS.

    There are three main contributions from the research outlined in this thesis. Firstly, the user centred recommendations are the first set of evaluated recommendations for how SNSs could be made more inclusive for older adults. Secondly, the research outlines a mixed-methods approach to creating a similar set of recommendations for other groups of people or other complex technologies. Such a framework can be applied to systems, where, for example, opinions can act as a barrier to adoption. Thirdly, the research suggests ways in which the recommendations could be implemented on a new or existing system. Context can be gathered from quotes included alongside each recommendation, potential changes to mainstream SNSs are suggested to provide examples of how the recommendations could be utilised, and mainstream SNSs are additionally investigated to suggest fundamental design choices that could be made when creating a new SNS.

    This thesis presents the user centred recommendations, demonstrates that they have the potential to improve SNSs, demonstrates that they are supported by participants and outlines methods for how they can be utilised effectively, improving the inclusivity of SNSs for a wider range of people.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJohn Arnott (Supervisor) & Vicki Hanson (Supervisor)

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