COLABORAR network is back…and with a new codesign space!

After more than two years of social distance, the COLABORAR network is back!

As a way of resuming usability tests, in person, a session was held at the new FhP- AICOS’ co-creation space. This space is now used for usability tests with end users, as it happened recently within the scope of the Anathema project.

In a session held with 4 users (2 couples), one of the project’s partners, SexLab, moderated the first part, a focus group with seniors on important issues of intimate and sexual life in old age.

In the second part, FhP-AICOS moderated a co-design workshop in which seniors gave their feedback both on illustrations that could be used in the application and on quotations from the texts that were created for the program.

The first of many sessions to be held!

Anathema is a European project for the promotion of sexual health, coordinated by the research center Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS (FhP-AICOS) which aims to develop a digital platform and a mobile application as a way to implement programs of promotion of sexual health, according to a plan outlined in conjunction with psychologists and therapists. The Anathema project focuses on monitoring sexuality in adults over 55 and with chronic diseases.

Guidelines for longitudinal studies

In 2019, our HCD team, with extensive experience in longitudinal studies, published the article entitled “Challenges and Lessons Learned from Implementing Longitudinal Studies for Self-care Technology Assessment”. Now, and based on that article, our experts have prepared a summary, with some tips and advice on how to conduct a longitudinal study.

Please, click here to access the document.

COLABORAR distributes tablets to seniors from nine institutions in order to combat social isolation

To combat the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, and in order to promote the proximity of family members and caregivers, the COLABORAR user network is distributing tablets to the elderly in some partner institutions. In total, 33 pieces of equipment should be assigned to nine institutions. The first to receive the tablets was the Monte Pedral Association.

The equipment aims, above all, to contribute to the well-being of this population group, stimulating contact and proximity to family members and also allowing for more playful moments through the use of some features such as games and activities. This COLABORAR network’s initiative comes under the ELAPSE Project, financed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which consists of implementing a longitudinal study to assess the impact of technology in combating the social isolation of the elderly.

Study about how seniors use technology

This year, a psychology student joins the COLABORAR team to conduct a study about the use of technology by older adults.

The longitudinal study is starting to collect data about seniors’ use of technology. We want to know which technological devices participants make use of and what activities participants perform with each of their devices.

The student will be running a survey comprised of many questions regarding technology. He will apply questionnaires to seniors of our user network COLABORAR and we are looking forward to seeing the results! Users will be contacted to answer by phone, in person and through the internet. Their participation is of great importance to us, as the survey will enable researchers from the Fraunhofer AICOS‘ Human-Centered Design group to better understand specific needs and preferences of older adults. Thus, they will build even more accurate and useful solutions!

A link to answer the questions will be available soon so that users far away from Porto can participate as well and be represented in this sample.

Three tips to better manage a living lab

Actively and continuously engaging users is essential to drive a living lab that supports research projects. When a project identifies the need for users, whether it is to conduct user research or usability tests of innovative health and well-being mobile apps, COLABORAR should promptly provide users. Often we recruit the same user multiple times, if he/she fits in the inclusion criteria. Our statistics show that each participant have participated in 2.7 activities in average since the project started in November 2011. This implies that we are able to maintain the users in the network and it is one of the biggest challenges of managing a living lab.Throughout the last 8 years we tried and enhanced some strategies. Here are some of the lessons that have helped us being able to maintain volunteers “actives”, that is, willing to be invited to take part in research.

1 – Show appreciation of the importance of their contribution to research

2 – Maintain contact

3 – Building trust

We are pretty sure these tips will help you to successfully manage a living lab.

Message from the COLABORAR team

The COLABORAR project achieved another year of strong performance in 2019, demonstrating the value of a living lab established in Porto.

The success of this year that comes to an end would not have been possible without the volunteers helping us to meet the demands of the ever-changing projects’ needs. Furthermore, people from COLABORAR inspire researchers and are privileged informers of needs, challenges and capabilities, thus strengthening our position as experts in human research, usability, testing and evidence generators on digital technology.

We wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!


Time to celebrate

COLABORAR decided to celebrate the completion of 8 years of Fraunhofer AICOS’ own living lab, organizing a social gathering. Volunteers, researchers and the COLABORAR coordinator discussed together the current activities and the aspects volunteers enjoy the most and the least.

Over the last 8 years, with the help of volunteers, mainly from Porto, COLABORAR has supported more than 3000 research activities. Many people have contributed their time to enable researchers collect users’ feedback about innovative technologies for self-care and well-being. Moreover, they made possible an environment of discussion, share and social gathering that promotes the understanding of how older adults live, as well as their habits and needs.

Thank you all for the support and trust.




This month we celebrate the 8th anniversary of COLABORAR, marking the 8th birthday of COLABORAR as a user network for gathering researchers and users.

Celebrating 8 years of COLABORAR makes us inevitably think back to early November 2011, when we were getting ready to initiate the project in Porto. We did the preparation work regarding administrative procedures to comply with the research regulations and good practices. Practicalities involving people visits, such as transportation, space and timing to fit users were also organized. Local social organizations were searched and approached to take part in an innovative project that would promote the contact of tech researchers with older adults. The aim was collect data about habits or needs, explore ideas and evaluate prototypes with representative users.

Recruiting older adults, mostly vulnerable to digital exclusion or with low confidence in using technology, was a challenge. However, they were willing to listen to our research proposal and then decided to take part. Techy users joined the network as smartphones and tablets were increasingly available. The demands of studies and their related inclusion criteria driven us to establish more partnerships. The online application form enabled geographically distant institutions to join the network. This resulted in a bank of 1100 participants.

COLABORAR has succeeded beyond our expectations. We will take this moment to celebrate the user network COLABORAR and all we have achieved. On behalf of the entire team, thank you to everyone who has joined us over the past 8 years. You helped us doing the following:

Understanding people to create technology.

World Usability Day 2019

We are celebrating the World Usability Day 2019.

We congratulate all professionals in the field and all volunteer participants in usability studies.Whether they work on objects such as tables or cars, or they work on software for computer, TV, smartphone or tablet, they are very important as their study methods enable users having good experiences on using a device.

At Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, there is an entire team dedicated to these issues. They are engineers, designers, and other professionals working together within the Human Centred-Design team.


How to recruit research participants in 4 steps

We are sharing the steps we follow when it comes to preparing for the recruitment of research participants for a usability session. Participant recruitment can be difficult, especially for a researcher just getting into Human Centered-Design, so we are sharing a few things that we always do to make the recruitment effective and easier.

These are the 4 steps:

1 – Define target users

The participants’ characteristics depends on the context of the study and the target users of the technology in study. For example, you may need active older adults who still are engaged in many physical or social activities and are technology proficients. Or it could be useful for you to gain insights from older adults who not usually engage with technology.

2 – Plan the test materials

The materials you are planing to use in a usability session for users to interact with should be taken into account when you recruit participants. paper prototypes are a good option to use with non-proficient users, because they eliminate the barrier of using a smartphone or a tablet. Thus, participants will be able to concentrate on understanding the workflow and focus on the tasks. On the other hand, when you are planning to conduct a usability test in the validation phase of the technology and therefore more functional and interactive prototypes should be used, proficient users are required.

3 – Provide context

Explaining the aim of the project briefly, as well as the materials to be used, day, time and duration of the session is very important when approaching a potential participant. This information allow participants to have an overall understanding of what the research is about, why you are doing it and what you expect from him/her. Bear in mind that you should emphasize that there are not good and bad answers, you just need him/her opinion.

4 – Pay attention to national holidays and festive seasons

Older adults often take mini-holidays and city breaks, usually close to a national holiday, weekend or festive season so to they can spend time with family relatives who still work. Therefore, it is not a good idea scheduling test sessions in this periods. Adapt your schedule to the participants’ availability, providing several options in the calendar.

These are practical tips that you can use in your next recruitment for a usability session. Let us know if you find it useful by contacting us (use the contact form).