Users between the ages of 56 and 91 years all feel differently about their Alexa devices. All of them use their devices for music and most of them for the weather. They want to learn how to better use this new interface but need better instructions.
What did they do?
The researchers did a series of 1-hour interviews with 12 people between the ages of 56 and 91. All of them had Alexa devices for at least 1 month, and half of them had their Alexa device for over a year. The point of this study was to better understand what influenced people to get an Alexa device, motivated them to start using it, and kept them using it.
What did they find?
The three most popular uses of the Alexa devices were:
- Listening to music (12/12)
- Checking weather (7/12)
- Playing games (4/12)
They also looked through the interview logs for answers to 4 specific questions. They divided the users’ responses as positive or negative. Here are some highlights:
Do you like what the Alexa device does?
“It has to be music the thing I enjoy the most. The sound is just stupendous”
“I can write it down, without having to look for a pencil or a pen or a piece of paper, and . . . and talk to her and say, you know, this what, just add this to the list and then it’s done.”
“I don’t know if there’s anything I don’t like to do on the Amazon Echo.”
“I guess the thing I least enjoy would be asking her a question that she says, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’ . . . So that’s probably my only frustration with her is that you can ask her questions that seem like she would be able to just Google it up.”
“Well it doesn’t seem necessary to use the Echo and use the email. Or the telephone. I use the telephone a lot.”
Are Alexa devices easy to use?
“It’s even easier than using my smartphone . . . all I have to do is speak. So yes it’s easy.”
“It’s very easy, again just asking it a question is so much simpler than trying to find the information yourself. It’s a real timesaver for sure.”
“Well it’s all easy, we just tell her to ask it, I mean, to do it and she does it.”
“But when I was setting it up initially . . . I couldn’t tell if the light came on so I had to go find a sighted person to help me.”
“Sometimes when you want the answer to a question you have to word it just so or she doesn’t quite understand you.”
“That’s the only time I have trouble, sometime with enunciation. [Alexa] doesn’t always get the Southern drawl.”
Do you enjoy using your Alexa device?
“My experience with Echo has been, I would have to say better than I expected it. . . . I’ve had a lot of fun with it.”
“Because I can be at my home and he [grandchild] can be at his home and we can play the game together so, I mean. Two different locations and you can still play game, I mean, that’s pretty cool.”
“Maybe in two years I would feel more comfortable about it. But right now I feel that it’s intrusive.”
“I would like to be able to personalize it and call it what you want to call it.”
Do you feel well informed about what you can do with your Alexa device?
“So far, everything she’s come up with that I’ve attempted to use has not been an issue.”
“I bought a Kindle book . . . and somewhere in the fine print there do you want Alexa to read this to you, or something like that, I thought ‘ah I never thought about that.’”
“I feel like there’s a lot that it could do that I don’t even know that it could do that.”
“I’m limited because I’m happy with what she does for me, and I don’t really know about other services it could provide.”
“Unless the Echo can give me translations of if I say an English word give it to me in Spanish but I try that and it doesn’t do it.”
“My kids are not into talking on the phone at all and I get tired of texting so if I could just say something to Alexa and she would deliver that message I would love that.”
Whether you’re a UX research, conversational designer, or developer, these interview highlights can give you a better idea of how people over 55 use their Alexa devices. As with most things, people have varying opinions on what they like and what they don’t. However, there are two main key takeaways from this research:
- People need better instruction on how to benefit from their Alexa devices’ functionalities. Users do not necessarily know everything that is possible on Amazon’s Alexa platform.
- People between 56 and 91 are curious about what is possible with conversational interfaces and want to learn how to improve their lives with these devices.
Koon, L. M., McGlynn, S. A., Blocker, K. A., & Rogers, W. A. (2020). Perceptions of Digital Assistants From Early Adopters Aged 55+. Ergonomics in Design, 28(1), 16-23. Full article.