Mike Bradley
, Joy Goodman-Deane
, Sam Waller
, Raji Tenneti
Pat Langdon
& P. John Clarkson
Engineering Design Centre, University of Cambridge, UK
University of Western Australia, Australia
Designers often assume that their users will have some digital
technological prior experience. We examined these levels of prior
experience by surveying frequency and ease of technology use with
a range of technology products. 362 people participated as part of
a UK nationwide larger survey of people’s capabilities and char-
acteristics to inform product design. We found that frequency and
self-reported ease of use are indeed correlated for all of the products.
Furthermore, both frequency and ease of use declined significantly
with age for most of the products. In fact, 29% of the over 65s had
never or rarely used any of the products, except for digital TV. We
conclude that interfaces need to be designed carefully to avoid
implicit assumptions about users’ previous technology use.
Venkatesh et al (2003) through their Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of
Technology (UTAUT), showed that technology use and acceptance is dependent
on other factors such as performance expectancy, effort expectancy (related to
perceptions of ease of use), social influence, facilitating conditions as well as age,
gender, experience and voluntariness of use. Of these factors, designers of digital
devices (and in particular interaction designers) often rely on users having some
prior experience with technology, and often they expect a significant amount of
such experience. For example, they may assume knowledge of common interface
controls, symbols or paradigms.
However, not all users have wide technology experience, particularly among older
age groups. For example, Morris et al (2007) found that computer and internet use
decline sharply with age among the over 50s, with corresponding decline in the
use of many other common technologies. Czaja et al (2006) also found that people
over 60 are less likely than younger people to use technology in general, although
O’Brien et al (2012) found that the lower usage was primarily limited to computer-
based technologies. Other studies have found that technology experience does have
an impact on product interaction. Blackler (2006) and Langdon et al (2008) found
that prior exposure to products with similar features helped participants to use
products more quickly and intuitively.

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