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Designing Your Website for Seniors

As digital marketing professionals with a keen focus on the Baby Boomer audience, we understand that getting your website in front of your target audience is only the beginning. The real challenge—and opportunity—lies in crafting an accessible website experience that resonates with aging users. The Baby Boomer demographic, while often overlooked, holds substantial purchasing power and brand loyalty potential.

Still, many brands fail to adequately tailor their digital storefronts to meet the unique needs of this group. Building an engaged and enthusiastic user base of Baby Boomers means that brands need to provide an unparalleled user experience from header to footer.

This blog post will detail the importance of accessibility and explore essential strategies to make websites more accessible to 50+ audiences. By embracing principles of inclusive design, we can open our digital doors even wider and ensure that our online environments effectively cater to the needs and preferences of older users without sacrificing the sleek, streamlined aesthetics and design conventions that modern audiences gravitate to.

 

Why Does Accessibility Matter?

The need for accessible website design isn’t just about altruism and equitable access to information online; it’s a strategic business decision that can drive exponential audience growth if handled correctly. Creating an intuitive, engrossing digital presence doesn’t just benefit the average user experience of aging audiences, but brands targeting aging demographics should do everything they can to streamline their website in a way that guides Baby Boomers through their products and services without overwhelming them or overcomplicating their messaging.

Research shows us that the rate of internet use has been rising for all groups, and older adults are now among the fastest growing demographics of daily internet users. A recent study from Forbes tells us that 96% of those aged 50-65 have access to the internet, only 1% lower than those aged 18-29. Older users also enjoy outsized spending power compared to younger generations, spending more and more of their disposable income year over year.

Older audiences come with their own unique set of circumstances and preferences, of course. As we age, our interaction with digital interfaces changes in small but noticeable ways. Conditions related to reduced vision, impaired hearing, and decreased motor skills can make navigating websites a challenge for internet users of any age, but older demographics are particularly susceptible. Therefore, brands must go beyond traditional marketing strategies and focus on creating user-friendly, accessible web designs that not only draw older users in but also enhance their experience while keeping their messaging and voice at the forefront.

So what do we mean by “accessibility”?

In short, accessibility means making a message understandable to as broad an audience as possible, including older audiences or those with disabilities. Accessibility can take on many forms, from adding captions and transcripts to visual page elements to assembling designs and page layouts that reduce possible confusion among users. On top of being good practice, accessibility in the digital realm is also the law of the land thanks to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was implemented to ensure equal access to information online.

Search online for long enough and you’ll find accessibility guidelines and best practices for every element of a website, from Plain Language Principles that help content writers easily organize and articulate complex topics to Visual Accessibility tips that take colorblindness and other visual impairments into consideration when developing visual components on a webpage.

While these accessibility considerations have become commonplace online, they’re far from comprehensive when developing a digital space tailored to 50+ audiences. To speak directly and effectively to Baby Boomers, brands need to keep several key factors top of mind when retooling their websites.

 

How Do I Make My Website User-Friendly for Seniors?

While there is no one-size-fits all approach that guarantees engagement across the board, our marketing experts at Coming of Age have identified several key strategies that give older audiences a more streamlined digital experience and help foster engagement through intuitive, easy to digest design principles that steer users away from frustration and into a more engagement-ready headspace.

Design with Scanning in Mind

  • Most readers aren’t going to read every page line by line at first glance; assemble your pages with the most important elements highlighted in one way or another and settled between natural start and stop points. Dense paragraphs and walls of text do little to engage audiences at first glance, so stay light on text at first and add a mix of visual elements to emphasize your most important concepts.
  • Utilize negative space to set a tone without overloading your audience. Wider page margins and gaps between sections can do wonders to help separate your pages into easily digestible segments, giving older users the space to process information before moving on.
  • Aging users who experience eye strain, cataracts, or other visual difficulties may have trouble deciphering visual elements that don’t incorporate some manner of color contrast, especially if blue, green, or yellow hues are involved (as these colors may blend together due to a decrease in color perception). Be sure to stay away from washed out or overlapping similar color schemes to help older users more easily distinguish between the different visual elements of your site.

Streamline Your Layout for Better Navigation

  • Assemble your site with a mobile-forward mindset, taking care to prioritize each page’s focal points to help users intuit where they can find the most relevant pieces of information. Visitors shouldn’t have to look far to find out how to get back to the homepage or click into your contact page, so don’t be afraid to remove extraneous elements to keep your pages sleek. Plus, fewer elements means faster load times!
  • Focus your high-level navigation elements and design on following older users’ path to conversion. In short, this means fine-tuning your site to “reduce friction and make the user journey seamless,” giving your audience every opportunity to learn more about what your brand has to offer before serving up your products and services on a digital silver platter. Map out what Baby Boomer audiences at the top of the marketing funnel need to know before they make it to the conversion stage and make that information not just available, but engaging on your page. Develop your site to gently guide them forward as they click from your brand’s identity and impact statement all the way to your products and services, with each subsequent click serving to expand on the one before it and turn information into action.
  • Set up a clear hierarchy of content and don’t let the background distract from the foreground. Stock images and videos should complement your content, not overwhelm it. Set clear boundaries between visuals and text, foreground and background, exposition and action. Aging users shouldn’t be left wondering which button will take them to where they want to go; your site’s design and navigational elements should be natural extensions of your brand’s voice and vision.

Make Content More Readable

  • Keep font size and type in mind throughout the site. Sans serif fonts are easier to read while still allowing a brand’s personality to shine through, so be sure to compare a few favorites before settling on the one that best conveys your brand’s voice. Though it might sound obvious, font size does wonders in establishing an order of operations for older readers to follow, with titles and headers eclipsing copy text and establishing the broader categories of information on display.
  • Don’t overexplain or overcomplicate; keep your vocabulary squarely out of the niche and make your content as easy to understand as you possibly can without sounding condescending. Don’t be afraid to include visual aids such as charts, graphs or images to underscore your points and give scanning readers something to latch onto.
  • You’re no doubt familiar with the “call to action,” where the copy pivots from informative to action-oriented statements that connect the needs of the reader to a brand’s products and services. At times, however, these calls to action can seem incongruous with the preceding content. To transitions smoothly from information to action and avoid tonal whiplash among aging users, frame your content as a gateway to meaningful experiences, maintaining a consistent benefits-oriented tone and keeping the next stage of the marketing funnel at the forefront.

Incorporate Assistive Technologies

  • Given that 20% of the population requires assistive technology to navigate the internet, it’s incumbent on brands to ensure that they take these technologies into account when fine-tuning their digital presence. Assistive technologies can accommodate users with visual, audio or motor impairments, but the ever-changing nature of contemporary website design means that compatibility issues may arise. For this reason, it’s important for brands to be proactive when accounting for the needs of older consumers.
  • Two of the most popular assistive technologies, screen readers and text-to-speech programs, are designed to help users with visual impairments more easily experience image-centric content. They rely on image descriptions and alt text to convey the totality of a page’s contents, so brands need to take care to keep this text accurate, concise and readable. Similarly, those who are hard of hearing will most likely make use of hearing devices, auto-captioning or speech-to-text programs, so developers should ensure that their audio or video content is compatible with these technologies. If not, providing text transcripts or subtitles alongside video content can work in a pinch.
  • Keep in mind that users with motor or dexterity impairments may make use of assistive or adaptive hardware to more easily click through their preferred sites. Though these solutions can take on many forms, brands should consider steering clear of navigational elements or vital content that can only be accessed through either a mouse or keyboard. Some older users may use items such as eye tracking software or single-button inputs to “click” through your site, so any measure of simplicity in design can make users’ experiences all the more convenient when they don’t need to worry about a tangle of extraneous, overly dense page elements.

 

Staying Senior-Friendly

Understanding and implementing senior-friendly web design is not just about adhering to accessibility laws or following a standard list of best practices—it’s a profound commitment to enhancing the digital experience of your Baby Boomer audiences. As digital habits continue to change with the times, it is crucial that we do not leave behind the senior demographic, a group that is increasingly making the internet a daily part of their lives. By simplifying page layouts, enhancing readability, and ensuring that navigational and visual elements are easily interpretable, brands can more effectively cater to the unique needs of older users while creating a more streamlined and effective digital presence.

At Coming of Age, we believe that integrating these thoughtful design principles into your website not only broadens your reach but also deepens engagement among Baby Boomer audiences, ensuring that aging users can navigate your site with ease. By making digital spaces more accessible and inclusive, brands can make themselves exponentially more attractive to a demographic rich in experience and engagement potential.

Get in touch with our experts through comingofage.com/contact and find out how we can help tailor your digital spaces to Baby Boomers.

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