Altersdifferenzierte Adaption der Mensch-Rechner-Interaktion

  Older man with tablet in his hand and eye-tracking goggles Copyright: © Mario Irrmischer

Key Info

Basic Information

01.01.2006 to 31.12.2011
Research Area:
Information Design and Data Visualization



Alexander Mertens

Head of Ergonomics and Human-Machine Systems Department


+49 241 80 99494




Develop models and methods for an age-differentiated adaptation of human-computer interfaces and to evaluate them ergonomically by means of prototypical user interfaces in test series under laboratory conditions.


Due to the demographic change of the population and the accompanying changes in gainful employment in Germany and other European countries, it is becoming increasingly important to maintain and promote the working ability of aging workforces. There are hardly any suitable concepts that focus on the individual strengths of the aging workforce. The use of information technologies is often a major barrier to this. The demand for customizable human-computer interfaces is usually difficult to meet because older users are often unable to define their requirements for individualization or to carry out this individualization themselves.


The goal of the research project is to develop models and methods for an age-differentiated adaptation of human-computer interfaces. These models and methods will then be ergonomically evaluated in test series under laboratory conditions by using prototypes. Based on the results of the second funding period as well as the state of research on the ergonomic design of human-computer interaction, the focus of the third application period is on the age-differentiated analysis of working with a large-area touch screen, which eliminates the spatial separation of information output and information input and enables the simultaneous presentation of information and an expectation-compliant manipulation.


The task of computer-assisted project planning with networks chosen for the experimental investigations is a typical organizational work task in industry and administration. It requires not only the display of complex task networks but also the ergonomic manipulation of the network contents stored there. However, the large working area of a touch screen requires the user to frequently reach out and touch areas far from the body. This leads to high muscular strain from the repeated activation of the holding and supporting muscles of the shoulder-arm system. The goal of the proposed research project is the ergonomic analysis of this input device as well as the conception and development of age-differentiated design variants to support low-stress use.


In seven empirical studies with a total of 445 participants, effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction were investigated when working with a prototypical project management software. Working with complex project plans requires visual perception of graphic symbols and their links, which can be particularly stressful for older workers due to reduced visual acuity. In the area of perception, the effect of visual acuity on the perception of graphic symbols of various font sizes, as well as different navigation variants in complex network diagrams was investigated. The main tasks of project managers are scheduling and resource planning, which belong to the area of cognition and decision making. In this context, complex projects with many relationships between activities place high demands on cognitive processing, comprehension, and memory. The effect of different structural network layouts on the performance of the project manager was analyzed. Manipulating elements in complex network layouts (adding, modifying, deleting) is another characteristic activity within computer-based project management and may be affected by an age-related decline in motor skills in speed and precision of information input. Therefore, in the reaction output stage, different information input devices were analyzed and evaluated. Building on the results, ergonomic information input and display on large-area touchscreens was analyzed in more detail.


The project was funded by the DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) as part of the “Altersdifferenzierte Arbeitssysteme” (Age-differentiated work systems) program.

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