I am currently in the process of designing a UI for an app to be utilized by Parkinson's patients. I am struggling to make the interface as intuitive as possible, as of now I have minimized visual clutter (max 4 buttons on a screen), color coded menus, and reduced multi-level menus whenever possible (always one level away from the home screen).

What other accommodations can be made to ensure maximum usability? What research already exists around this topic?

  • 4
    What a cool project. And a great opportunity for user research. Meet with patients, watch them work with other sites, and have them work with yours. I'm envious. May 16, 2016 at 18:30

6 Answers 6


People with Parkinson Disease (or PD as it's also known) need special considerations as you correctly figured. However, keep in mind that most of those considerations are covered by special peripherals rather than specific UI. As a matter of fact, just following common WAI- ARIA guidelines is more than enough.

Keep in mind that, like many people with diseases, they want to forget they have a disease, and they don't want to be treated in a special way, so try to minimize any "hey, I know you have a very complex disease so I made a site for you" approach. Simple accessibility should be more than enough.

Since you need to do this, I assume you have access to people with PD, or at least knowledgeable professionals, so be sure to research the subject, because unlike what many UX professionals would think, working with people with diseases or disabilities is a really different thing that we might think. Additionally, you can read Improving Computer Interaction for People with Parkinson's Disease, a very interesting research on HCI for PD patients.


You can find a real case of the research for an app for PD patients at REMPARK

If you have access to Springer, you can get these papers:

And on Google Books you can find Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction: User and Context Diversity which I really recommend. I got it when we built a system for Alzheimer patients and its contents can be adapted to PD as well, so if it's within your possibilities, try to grab it. There are some free pages available just in case

  • 4
    Great answer, particularly in the advice to not be condescending (easy to do accidentally), as well as to get actual input from those with PD.
    – user31143
    May 16, 2016 at 8:27
  • 1
    I have occasional hand tremors, and what I find annoying on mobile phones is a spinner control with an "OK" button right below it! (So if you see a gas station in a certain navigation app where the gas price is $5.19, blame me!) May 17, 2016 at 0:51
  • Some mention of Fitt's law (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitts%27s_law) seem applicable here too. May 17, 2016 at 8:30

My father has late-stage PD and after watching him use his Mac for the last 15 years here are some thoughts in no particular order:

  • Assume the user can't use both hands or combinations of keys. My father uses his non-dominant hand with a track-ball because it shakes less, but has to use the keyboard and click with the same hand. Try that one out yourself some time; brutal.

  • Double clicking is a no-go. As is anything that is based on timing.

  • Keep it simple and make sure the UI inputs are large targets.

  • People with PD often suffer from vision problems. Make sure you address vision related accessibility issues. Also, they can experience shade-blindness for certain colors; so address that like you would accessibility for shade-blind users.

Good luck with your project!

  • 1
    Good to have data based on actual observation! Based on this comment, you might extend your "large targets" bullet point: "...and that your 'Done' or 'Exit' button is far away from everything else."
    – Wildcard
    May 17, 2016 at 1:48

I think you should go a week or so using some of the peripherals that these patients would use. You probably know UX as you experience the web, but you should get to know the challenges that they face when they're not using a mouse and a screen. They might have a hard time reading on the screen because of the shaking, so maybe they use a screen reader with voice controls.

Trying them out will shock you and open your eyes to whole new world of UX issues. Maybe you can attempt to address those in this project. Everything that you mentioned will definitely help the other less-serious patients so do that all as well.

Also, you're probably asking the wrong group of people. You should go to a place like /r/Parkinsons/ and ask them. I'm sure they'd love to help.


I would give larger hit areas than we would for regular users as parkinson's patients experience tremors. Maybe try to simulate that with a shaking screen and try to use the interface yourself to experience how useable it in in that state. The best way would be to test out your interface on your target users and to adjustments based on your feedback.

  • 1
    Or try using the app with your left hand if your are right-handed! Or use gloves that work on cell phones, using gloves that are too big for you. May 17, 2016 at 0:54

It could be useful to explore an alternative voice input. If a user has trouble pressing a control is there another way they could do it with voice? Could there a big voice activation control on each screen? I agree with another comment that it would be really useful to test the app with people with Parkinson's.


This is a perfect example of the importance of including the user in the user experience design. The contributions from the experts on this site and very valuable and will help you a ton, but getting input from the actual users as early as possible in any design situation will highlight important details early and avoid you having to try and retro-design them.

If you are not able to work directly with some of the patents it would also help to work with some of the people who care for them on a daily basis.

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