3 years ago


To create an iPad app to help those suffering from dementia, and their care givers, through the creation of “life stories” using photos, text, music and voice.


To make the app user friendly for those people who are not familiar or comfortable with technology. To augment the benefits of a traditional photo album by adding sound, while not letting it distract the user. To create an interface that is easy to use and understand.

User Cases

  1. Nursing Homes
    In this instance, the nurses will have a single iPad for multiple patients. The nurses will be the ones importing the content. The patients will be consuming it. They range from mild memory loss, to level 6 maybe level 7 Alzheimer's.
  2. At Home
    The content creator will be a family member, probably a son or daughter. They are expected to be middle-aged, with a moderate understanding of technology. The user could have one or many albums.

Content Creation

When building any user interface we always consider how much control the user needs. This seems condescending at first but too much control and a user might find the app too complex, too little and the user might become frustrated with unnecessary processes.

In both use cases we were conservative with our estimate of the content creators ability. For this reason, while creating an album, the user is only ever presented with one choice at a time. This sequence of choices is then repeated over and over for each slide. The sequence is accompanied by tool tips (also clickable), and desaturation upon completion:


There are no hidden gestures used in the app. Everything functions by clicking, and the whole app is locked to landscape. Buttons are updated live, so that the user can see what effect they are having as they tap / type.

Advanced controls were some-what hidden behind the depiction of the album. These are global settings for the the album including destructive processes like, “delete slide” “add & remove song” and “delete album.” Each of these processes have safeguards in place as well.



Our biggest goal was to engage the user, hold their attention and hopefully trigger some connections. While a lot of this came down to the content itself we endeavoured to present this is the most effective way.


Again, the app was locked to landscape. We did this for several reasons.

  • Our research showed that this was the easiest / most natural way to hold the iPad.
  • It allowed a large, single line of text to run across the bottom. Giving a full 75 characters.
  • Most importantly to make the information being displayed feel as tactile as possible.


The font we chose for the caption is one of the top 5 most readable serif fonts, and that was commonly used in newspapers. Although subtle, we believe this choice would more easily allow the user to read it. Maybe even encourage some nostalgia.


Music, and the sound of familiar peoples voices have been proven to trigger memory in dementia patients. We introduced “dipping” during playback when a slide has music and voice captions. “Dipping” means the music will fade out over 4 seconds before the voice caption starts playing, and subsequently fade back in when it’s finished. This extra consideration gives the playback a very reminiscent quality. It also accounts for potentially quiet voice captions, or very abrasive music.


Safe Guards

Playback is the one screen that had to account for both the content creator and the user. In both user cases we expected the content creator to play the album and hand it to the user.

While being of advanced age, and potentially reduced motor control, we were worried that the user may accidentally exit playback and not be able to find their way back. For this reason, we added a series of complex gestures to exit the app:

Tap to reveal:


After 5 seconds, if the action is not completed the “slide to pause” UI disappears. This accounts for accidental taps.


We decided to make the slide action a pause. This gives the content creator a way to temporarily stop it if needed.


It was very clear what functionality we needed to achieve our goals, but it came down to the importance of each element. Apple's default photo app performs many of the same functions but My Life Story’s strength is in its understanding of its users. We tailored the User Interface to meet their needs specifically while at the same time creating an engaging experience.

If you want to know more about My Life Story you can visit their facebook.
Or download it from the App Store.


Semiotics & Mobile Devices