Project Brief
Help Table


Smart devices and mobile health apps offer new potential for managing health concerns. However, their rapid proliferation in the marketplace demands attention to the challenges that individuals face in learning to use them. We examine through a survey (n=42) and semi-structured interviews (n=27) the factors adults 65+ consider in choosing which new digital technologies to adopt, the challenges they face in learning to use them, and the human and material resources they employ to support these efforts. From our findings, we develop Help Table, which leverages a 40” tabletop display to integrate support into one visual space, while also supporting older adults in learning how to use multiple devices that must be configured to work together (e.g., a smartwatch synched to a tablet). Using a video prototype of our design, we revisited requirements with 13 of our interview participants who appreciated self-paced learning, remote support, and flexible learning methods. Our results provide insight into the evolving learning needs of older adults and offer design implications for next generation learning support. 


Research Questions:

  • In terms of adopting and learning to use new technologies, how do older adults: perceive the experience, decide which ones to adopt, and approach learning?

  • How can we design interactive technology to support the needs of older adults in learning to use smart devices for health information management?” 

Study Methodology
Online Survey:


Participants completed a 15-min online questionnaire mainly focused on their general experiences with using and learning to use personal wearables. We also asked for their self-rated expertise on various digital technologies (e.g., computers, smartphone, tablets, wearables, social media, and email); their preferred methods and resources for learning new technologies (e.g., instruction manuals, customer support, searching the Internet, taking a class, or asking a partner or children); their general health; and, their current availability of social support (from family and friends) for learning how to use new technologies. Our survey was open for 10 weeks. 


Semi-structured Interviews:

We also conducted in-person and phone interviews, which lasted between 45-60 min each. Of our 23 interviews, 19 were individual interviews and 4 were dyadic interviews with a family member and an older adult. In total 27 individuals were interviewed. Completed over a 7-week period, the interviews were semi-structured and focused on participants’ experience with technologies, their motivations for adopting new technologies, and their personal health information management practices.

Design of Help Table & Video Prototype Interviews:

Over a six-month period we iteratively sketched, designed, and built the Help Table prototype, drawing from our reflections on earlier work and findings from the online survey and semi-structured interviews. We used sketches to create a medium-fidelity prototype using Axure RP 8. From our medium-fidelity prototype we developed usage scenarios associated storyboards, and from, produced a video prototype of our system. 


  • Help Table instructions are concise and use simpler language because participants in our survey and interviews preferred concise, step-by-step instructions and simple one-pagers over more detailed (and complicated) instructions. 


  • Help Table supports the top four preferred learning methods: internet (via an integrated Google Search), trial and error (through feedback), instruction manuals (through step-by-step and video instructions), and children (through video chat). 


  • Help Table shows instructions around the device to avoid attention splitting and make instructions more concise and clearer (more closely tied to device). 


  • Help Table videos are designed to be brief so that participants can follow along and remember steps easily.



Sketch of Onboarding Process V.S. Sketch of Managing Personal Health Information



Design of Help Table, including learning topics, remote video support, and interactive instructional information.

User Scenarios 


P1: Collaborative (Child supports older adult)

Video Prototype 


P2: Collaborative (Spouse supports older adult)


P3: Individualized (Older adult learning alone)

We conducted video prototype interviews with 13 participants over Skype (all of whom had previously participated in a semi-structured interview). These interviews each ranged between 35-50 min in duration. The goal of the interviews was to test and help us iterate on the design of Help Table. During the interviews, we shared our screen and played the video prototype consisting of two scenarios, seven minutes in total. After each scenario, we paused the prototype and asked participants to reflect on their initial thoughts of the prototype and the scenarios, what they learned from the video, and what features of Help Table they were and were not interested in. 

Updated Design

Based on the findings we collected from the video prototype interviews, we made some modifications.

  • Added more scenarios. Users are able to learn one or multiple devices at the same time. 

  • Organized the layout and utilized the space usage. 

  • Made the design more user-centered by adding guidelines and descriptions. 

  • Changed the design to be more interactive. All the panels are draggable. Videos and images can be enlarged. 


​2020 Collin Wang