Age-related visual behavior and search strategies for web-based information with applications to internet telemedicine systems



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Telemedicine has emerged as an effective tool for providing healthcare and health-related information, especially in rural areas which often have a larger elderly population having a higher rate of preventable disease. An internet-based telemedicine system can be one solution to provide the rural elderly the proper health information when needed. However, the interfaces of currently existing internet-based telemedicine systems were not specifically developed for elderly users. This research investigated the characteristics of older adults’ visual behavior including attention shifts, information processing, choice selection, search strategies, and error patterns in health related information searches for developing more appropriate web interfaces for older adult users. The research consisted of two experiments. The first experiment conducted an eye-tracking study with twenty older and nineteen younger adults while using the original interface to identify visual behavior, search strategies, and error patterns when searching for health related information on an internet-based telemedicine system. The older adults tended to use sequential search strategies while most of the younger adults used a random jumping strategy. The older adults utilized the right area on the homepage as well as the top area while the younger adults did not focus as often on the right side. The older adults were more cautious and conservative while the younger adults were more exploratory. The older adults also tended to look at more areas and were easily distracted by accessory features and secondary information. Based on these results, a new interface for an internet-based telemedicine system was developed and tested with twenty different older adults to determine if it positively influenced older adults. The new interface, using older adults’ visual behavior in its design, led to significantly more efficient and effective information searches as well as better performance and higher satisfaction than the original interface. Better understanding of how older adults acquire important health-related information is of critical importance in developing more appropriate web interfaces.



Visual bahavior, Search strategy