Designing your site to be Elderly Friendly
Younger people use the Internet, right? Not always. In fact, the older, or “mature” (over age 60) Internet audience is growing rapidly. If you don’t want to miss out on a rising wave of opportunity for your website, you should seriously consider designing your site to follow specific guidelines that will attract a maturing population.
The first wave of the estimated 77-million strong Baby Boomer generation has already reached the age of 60 and studies show that in comparison to prior generations, Boomers are much more likely to use computers and the Internet.
Since this population spans two decades, there is no doubt that demand for websites tailored to their maturing needs will be on the rise. We can expect that given the significant influence this generation has had on business products in the past, companies will begin producing the equipment they’ll need to surf the Internet (such as making better mouse substitutes for people with arthritis). Website designers will need to respond in kind if they want to continue to engage this lucrative population.
Fortunately, there is some research available to guide the development of websites that work well for an older population. The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine has compiled research-based guidelines for how to design the best websites for the elderly.
The guidelines are relatively straightforward, and they could make a significant impact on the success of your site in the future. They include information on how to present information, how to design pages, and what to consider when planning site navigation.
Presentation of Information
When it comes to how you present information, in many ways you want to write your content the same way you would write it for any audience.
For example, you should use simple language and an active voice, and you should break information down into smaller chunks. But for the more mature audience, there are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Keep your text positive by using positive statements.
- Avoid jargon; instead, reduce inferences and present information in a familiar way as possible.
- Provide an online glossary of terms. This audience will read and depend on your glossary to get them through the site.
There are a few things to keep in mind from a design standpoint with respect to text, images, colors and backgrounds.
- Use larger fonts (12-point and higher)
- Use a sans serif font that is not condensed (like Arial)
- Left justify text as much as possible
- Use upper and lowercase text.
- Avoid italics. Bold works well, though.
GRAPHICS, COLORS, AND BACKGROUNDS
- Don’t put yellow, blue, and green close to each other. For the older eye, these colors tend to merge and hard to distinguish from each other.
- Use dark text or images against light backgrounds, or use light text or images against dark backgrounds. Contrast is best.
Elderly Internet users don’t always recognize what might be a “standard” navigational tool for most other Internet users. They also tend to need to know where they are on a website and where they are going and need a little more instruction on what a navigational tool might mean. To that end:
- Use a step-by-step process as much as possible, including letting the user know where he is in the process as he goes through the site.
- Try to reduce the need for scrolling to the extent possible. Design horizontally rather than vertically. If scrolling is necessary, use a scroll icon to show what to do.
- Use large buttons and incorporate text with icons whenever possible.
- Be as consistent as possible. This means using a standard page design on all pages, putting navigation buttons in the same spot on each page, and placing page titles in the same location on each page.
- Avoid drop-down menus, which can be confusing and may be overlooked by the user.
- Make it easy to figure out how to go backward and forward, such as by placing “Next Page” and “Back” buttons on all pages.
Don’t miss out on the chance to increase your website traffic. If you use these guidelines while designing your new website or while re-designing your existing website, you could secure your place on the web for decades to come.