Tipper Contextual Help

Helping seniors be more competent & confident on the web

Tipper is a browser extension that gives senior citizens help on the web, promoting confidence and reducing burden on loved ones.

Yibo Dai, Chris Olsen, Saba Kawas and I contributed to all parts of the design process, and we presented our work at the 2015 ACM CHI conference in Seoul.


I interviewed and observed seniors at a local retirement home, gathered information thru an online questionnaire and compiled a literature review of previous work. We distilled results with affinity diagrams.

Participants were comfortable doing a limited set of tasks, like replying to an email, but would hesitate or get stuck on new things, relying heavily on loved ones for help.

This group was also extremely resistant to change, a particularly challenging design constraint.

With the research findings, we defined goals and design requirements, then created personas and mood boards to frame opportunities to address with design.

Design & Prototyping

I sketched out a dozen ideas and discussed with the team to choose ideas that best fit the personas, goals and requirements. In particular, our research made us think hard about introducing new concepts and how we could add assistance without disrupting users’ narrow workflows.

We outcome was Tipper, a browser extension to provide contextual help for seniors on the web. Loved ones or other helpers can create tips attached to elements on any webpage, which are shared to provide crowdsourced help for everyone. Tips can show single explanations or walk thru a series of steps. We were careful to keep the UI simple, clear, and visible to accommodate older users’ potential mental and physical limitations.

I helped develop experience prototypes with Axure and JavaScript.


I met with seniors to conduct usability studies with the prototypes. The results showed that Tipper succeeded in building upon existing skills to learn new things, encouraging seniors to be more confident in clicking something new. For example, before none of the 6 participants could attach a photo to an email, but with Tipper all but one attached a photo without difficulty.