How would you make WhatsApp more user-friendly for the elderly (old-age) population to use?
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4 Answers

+1 vote

I would start by describing WhatsApp core features and strengths. WhatsApp is a free communications mobile app which enables users to have a very fast, easy and reliable way to establish a conversation with another person or group of people (being the group feature widely used by its users base).

I thought whether we had the information or not about the user age in order to provide different features based on it, but I am assumming here that we don't have access to that private information so therefore we don't know the age. 

In order to make it "more user friendly" for the elderly, we need to focus on what "user friendly" means for the elderly, and "who" the elderly is. I will ask if it's ok to assume we're targetting people of age > 70 years old. And I will say that make it more user friendly means allowing them to perform the task they want to perform creating the less friction possible. 

I would go through the user journey of using whatsApp and its features for the elderly:

-Download app from the store 

-Accountkit validation to verify number. 

I will be assuming here that the elderly receive some help on how to do this and this is not a pain point for them as it's a one time thing. I'll also assume that whoever sets it up has defaulted font size to a size they can read and write appropriately.

Once they have the app up and running, here's what they might want to do: 

I think they would also receive help the frirst time but once they face the task by themselves, they are likely to encounter challenges. 

1) Start a text conversation . In order for a conversation to happen, there is a need to find the contact they want to talk to. 

2) Send / listen to a voice message. 

3) Make and answer a call. 

4) Create a group (I will leave out the option of creating a group as it is a more advanced feature and I am assuming they are being invited instead of creating their own groups).

I would ask if it's ok to assume that 1 through 3 are the most common tasks an elderly would like to perform, assuming they want to keep in touch with certain relatives like grandchildren who might live far away, and be able to be reached by their children on a regular basis. If yes, I would try to come up with ideas of why these tasks can present a challenge to the elderly. 

Here some ideas:

1) In order to start a conversation the user has to tap on the "message" icon.  This can be pretty straightforward as the icon represents the "send message" action for the young and adults, but probably not for an elderly person .I would run user interviews to validate if this is or not a problem. In this exercise I'll assume it is.

2) Once in a conversation not only messages but voice can be exchanged. I will assume that the listening is a intuitive task , but not so the speaking to someone. There is a microphone icon next to the text input but you need to actively press it (or do another gesture) to start the recording. 

3)In order to start a call, similar to 1, one needs to find a contact. And then you need to find the "Call" which might not be not easily seen as it's placed in the right header next to the settings. Also, for picking up one has to slide on the call icon ? I am not sure if it works like this and I will assume it does work in this case this might be an issue for the elderly as they don't know how to accept the call.


So now trying to look at solutions for their pain points (which I would actually extract from a usability test where they would interact with the product):

For 1) and 3) I am assuming that most elderly will have few contacts (something can be easily extracted from data). Therefore, I would evaluate directly presenting the unitiated conversations with up to the 5 most frequent contacts already loaded on the conversation screen as they open the app. The cost for this is low, and impact is high. In many cases, this will solve the finding a contact challenge. This experience is similar to the one offered by their OS when trying to send a message or make a call. Also, I think this feature will be nice for the young and adults users as well.

For 2) I would consider making the process of recording more standard. Instead of having to press it, one click would be enough to start the recording, and another clic to pause it. 

For 3) I would prototype different places to put the call action and see which one is the most successful one. In the group, I would do it with the elderly but I would also then run a test with other groups to confirm this has no impact on their experience (or even, enhances it). For the answering issue, just tapping on the accept  would get the call through.

I think this is challenging as the main population targetted is people who don't find WhatsApp not to be user-friendly. There is a risk too about redesigning it for an elderly and hurting the wider base of user experiences. I think a "learn how" section could be a good idea too, so that it's available for people that need it.

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+1 vote


1. Clarify the question

2. Identify user and pain points

3. Brainstorm solutions

4. Prioritize solutions based on impact, effort and cost 

5. Summarize and give recommendation


1. WhatsApp, FB's messager platform? Yes

2. WhatsApp Web or mobile? Mobile

3. Define "old-age population," are they 65+ or do they have difficulty seeing or hearing or weak motor skills? All of the above

4. For all WhatsApp users or are we in a certain geography? Start with USA, if successful, we will expand internationally

5. Any specific goals? We want to expand the userbase by attracting the elder community, making it more user-friendly will help achieve that goal 

Identify pain points

1. They are afraid of technology

2. They don't know how to use WhatsApp

3. They have difficulty seeing the screen

4. They have difficulty hearing voice notes

5. Weak motor skills can inhibit texting/tapping abilities

Brainstorm solutions

1. Show promo video of elder folks using and enjoying the platform, include encouraging and inspirational testimonials saying how how simple it is to use and the benefits of being able to connect with their children, grandchildren and friends. Connect to their emotions, with people saying things like; "I can chat with my grandchild who lives in another country, offer advice and hear about her day" 

2. Produce intro video showing what each button does, and the logic behind it; i.e. the phone icon to make a phone call, the video camera to start a video chat, etc. so they can understand and remember it for the future

3. Create a special mobile version with enlarged icons/buttons

4. Enable extra loud voice notes

5. Allow them to make voice notes by tapping to start and end the note, instead of having to hold down the note until they finish speaking

6. Show them they can hold the phone horizontally to enlarge the keyboard 

Evaluate & prioritze features based on impact, effort and cost

1. Video can be costly to produce, but can have everlasting, impactful effects

2. Same as #1

3. Costly, and little impact because small user base, perhaps utilize the smart phone option in settings to enlarge screen size

4. This might be a feature for the actual phone and can be hard to implement in a specific app

5. This can be beneficial for all users, oftentimes voice notes are sent too early/are cut off

6. Similar to #1 and #2, large upfront costs can reap everlasting rewards

Summarize and recommendation

I would produce the promotional video to entice elder users, and follow up with #2 to familiarize them with the platform, even if they cannot see the icons so well, they will know where they are located. Last I would utilize #6, because a quick demo can be simpler than enlarging the keyboard as space is limited on a mobile screen.

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by (48 points)
+1 vote

1) Prod description: I would like to start by baselining on the product features of whatsapp. It's a communication platform that lets users connect with their family members, friends and businesses via messages, video calls, audio calls and sharing photos or files or links.

2) Clarifying questions:

1) Any specific age range of elderly users i.e., 60-70, 70-80, 80+


2) Any specific country?

Up to you

2) Acquistion of users or engagement of users?


3) Goal: To make Whatsapp more intuitive for elderly users. Aligns well with the mission of Facebook which is to enable users to connect with each other and the world around them

Summarize: We are building features to improve the user experience and increase overall engagement of elderly users in the age-group of 60-70

4) Pain-Points

1) Difficulty in reading, typing

2) Difficulty in finding contacts

3) Difficulty in discovery of new features

4) Difficulty in using new features

Would like to focus on solving #1 and #2 pain-points as they likely constitute the key functionality used within WhatsApp

5) Solutions:

1) Voice assistant; Pros : Natural to converse, Cons: May be hard to understand, Will not work for hearing and talk-impaired elderly customers, New technology to get used to for elderly users; Effort: High

2) Profile based WhatsApp UI: Pros: Customized and easier to use, Cons: May not have all the functionality, will need to get used to this format; Effort: Medium

3) Add a magnifier mode - for reading, typing, or suggest auto responses based on the context; Add favorites to WhatsApp; Pros: Improves CX, Cons: Edlderly users will have to discover these new features which in itself is another pain-point as discussed above; Effort: Low-Medium

6) Prioritization

SolutionCustomer ExperienceEffort

Based on the impact to customer experience and the effort for building a solution, I would recommend solution #2

7) Recommendation:

The goal was to build a solution for elderly users to improve user experience and increase engagement within WhatsApp. We prioritized the pain-points of typing, reading and searching contacts, and bainstormed 3 solutions. Of the 3 solutions, I recommend a profile based WhatsApp UI solution based on the impact to customer experience and the effort needed for implementation

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by (60 points)
+1 vote

Ask clarifying questions to understand the scope (Consumer Segment, Geography, Device, target metric etc)

  1. When you say 'elderly', can we assume our target audience is 70 yrs & above? Yes
  2. Can we assume that a significant percentage of people is above age group suffer from weakened eye-sight, sense of touch? Yes
  3. Can we assume that their ability to hear is fine because they can adjust volume and/or use the hearing aid? Yes
  4. Are we targeting the global audience? Let's target USA first
  5. Do we have a specific device like a phone, tablet or desktop in mind to develop this app? Let's ignore desktop for now
  6. Is it okay to assume that we will modify the current app only (building a new app for older people is not a path we want to take) ? Yes
  7. Also, I am assuming that the goal is to increase engagement from old people? Yes

Re-iterate the scope & understanding of the product

Whatsapp is a communication app which allows users to:-

  1. Signup & Authenticate via the Phone number
  2. Add friends
  3. Do one on one chat
  4. Create groups
  5. Do group chats
  6. Do video calls
  7. Send Audio chats
  8. Share contacts, files, images

We need to ignore desktop as well as only focus on US market for now.


Let's figure out user flows 


Download app -> Open App -> Detect Age -> Age Detection by App -> Signup & Authenticate via the Phone number-> Add Friends -> Search Friends or chats to initiate a new chat-> Create Group if needed -> Type Chat/Send Audio/Initiate Video Call -> Send files/images/contacts 


Let’s figure out the metrics we want to target since engagement is too broad a term

  1. # of users above 60yrs of age

  2. # of chats initiated by old users

  3. # of messages sent by old users


We will focus on features impacting these 3 metrics


Let's go over each of these steps, identify pain points


User StepFlow PriorityPain Points
Download App MandatoryDifficult to search app store & download App
Open App MandatoryHandled by underlying OS or device. We can’t do anything
Age Detection by App Mandatory Difficulty remembering the age and sometimes even the birth year. Needed so as app can behave appropriately
Signup & Authenticate via the Phone numberMandatory Signup flow might look complicated to older people.
Add Friends if neededMandatoryHard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal
Search Friends or chats to initiate a new chatMandatory Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal
Create Group if neededOptional Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal, search friends, remember name of groups
Type ChatMandatory Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal
Send audio chatsOptional-
Initiate Video CallOptionalAccidental invocation of video & camera, trouble understanding what other side is saying (Sometimes)
Send files/images/contactsOptional Difficulty searching for files to send on phone. Handled by Os & device 


Let’s Identify features for pain-points & follow RICE model for prioritisation of features. 


We will first do high impact, high reach & low effort features. Then we will do High impact, medium reach features so on & so forth. Impact is marked basis the impact the feature would have on engagement.

Pain PointsFeatureReachImpactConfidenceEffortPriority
Difficult to search app store & download AppApart from the app store create a fully SEO optimized landing page with a direct link to the app store.LowMediumMediumLow9
Difficulty remembering the age and sometimes even the birth year. Needed so as app can behave appropriately

Keep it simple

Just ask if the user were born before 60 from the current date

Signup flow might look complicated to older people.Auto-read Mobile Number HighHighHighLow2
Signup flow might look complicated to older people.Auto-read OTPHighHighHighLow3
Signup flow might look complicated to older people.Explanation of the flow & why it is neededLowLowMediumLow10
Signup flow might look complicated to older people.Ability to use voice to enter the above informationLowLowLowMedium12
Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal to add friendsAutomatically add friends from phonebookHighHighHighLow4
Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal to add friendsUI & larger fonts to support adding of friends via typingMediumMediumHighLow5
Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal to add friendsVoice based ability to enter information and add friendsLowMediumMediumMedium11
Group CreationUI & larger fontsMediumMediumHighLow6
Remember name of groupsLock groups at top, ability to mark favouritesMediumMediumHighLow7
Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal to type chat

UI & Larger fonts


Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal to type chatAI based keyboard which remembers users frequently used wordsHighHighHighHigh14
Hard to type, small screen size, sense of touch not optimal to type chat

UI & Larger fonts


Accidental invocation of video & camera, trouble understanding what other side is saying (Sometimes)Double conformation flow for camera LowHighLowLow8
Accidental invocation of video & camera, trouble understanding what other side is saying (Sometimes)AI/ML/NLP based voice processing to show what other side is speaking as sub-titlesLowHighLowHigh16




We will modify the existing app with above prioritised features. First, we will target mandatory flows & then implement other features. From device perspective, tablet is more suitable because of big screen size but I will assume that the base would be too small so we will do app for tablet as well.

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by (36 points)

Excellently detailed answer Chetan Channa! Well done.

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