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How to Design Your Website for Seniors, Boomers and the 50+ Audience

Know Your Target

Computer usage by those 50+ is soaring. Statistics show that the rate of internet use has been rising for all ages, and older adults are now among the fastest growing groups of internet users. The 50+ age group has made the internet an integral part of their everyday lives.

According to a 2016 Pew Research poll, roughly three-quarters of older internet users go online at least daily – including 17% who say they go online about once a day, 51% who indicate they do so several times a day and 8% who say they use the internet almost constantly.

65-plus Internet Usage Poll

Make Your Site User-Friendly

We believe the most successful companies in ecommerce will be dominated by those that reduce the frustration quotient of their users. In order to maximize results, you must design your site for maximum usability. Many sites don’t respond to the realities of aging and often champion innovative design over clarity. Often, the user is more likely to be frustrated than impressed. He or she may or may not have intuitive sense to navigate such a site. Frustrated users typically don’t return  – so keep the design clear, legible and informative.

A survey by Hostway Inc., conducted by TNS, reports that more than 70% of consumers said that they’re unlikely to purchase from, or even return to, a website after encountering a frustrating issue. Moreover, because only 25% of consumers say they will complain to the companies about their frustrations, the use of features that annoy consumers may be having a negative impact that is difficult to trace or measure.

We also know how users read websites – they don’t!  They scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences. So to make your site more user-friendly, we suggest the following:

  • Highlight keywords
  • Create meaningful subheadings (not clever ones)
  • Bulleted lists
  • One idea per paragraph
  • Start with the conclusion
  • Half the word count (write the copy, review it and then reduce it by half!)

Most internet users want to see improvements in the quality of the internet experience. Older adults want responsiveness to their individual needs, along with simplicity of interaction, efficiency, economy and convenience. And, they want it delivered with respect!

Credibility Is Important

Make it clear who is behind information on the website. The home page should be clear, readable and uncluttered. Increase credibility with high quality graphics, good writing and use of outbound hypertext links (projects that authors have done their homework on and are not afraid to refer readers to). Give your audience the facts; they detest hyperbole. We suggest the “Home” and “About Us” page copy reflect an empathy with the users’ needs and portray who you are and why you’re their best choice.

Design for Physical Changes of Aging Audiences

Ten million Americans have low vision or functional vision loss and 60% are over the age of 55. Also eyestrain and fatigue is a reality, and by age 65, some can’t focus and have reduced field of vision, difficulty in resolving images, distinguishing colors, adapting to changes in light, and sensitivity to glare.

The need for contrast increases, clouding, cataracts or yellowing reduces amount of light passing through the eye and yellowing also reduces violet light registered by the eye. As we age we loose some of our color perception; it’s harder to see blues, greens and violets (colors may blend).

Balance use of type and negative space, as large areas of open space and small blocks of text increase readability. Include hyperlinks with longer pages to allow “jumping” from section to section with one click. Use a wide margin to allow for different monitors.

Using larger images of people in everyday life (and in the context of using your products and services) strengthens the power of the website. Increasing the number and size of images on the site will soften what could be described as a sterile image and add to the emotional appeal of the site, and therefore your brand.

The design and content of many sites reflect the personality of the designer/developer, who is often 1/3 the age of the end-user. It’s essential that you focus on the audience’s needs and preferences instead!

Website Design Basics

  • Is the background attractive without interfering with the information?
  • Are the colors easy to see and distinguish?
  • Is the text a good color, size and font?
  • Is the creative in keeping with your brand?
  • Are there clear focal points for the eye to follow?
  • Is navigation clear and does it follow the visitor’s path to conversion?
  • Do the pages load quickly enough?
  • Are the pages on the site of a consistent style?
  • Are the buttons large and clear enough?
  • Are the pages and information clearly labeled?
  • Does each page have easy-to-use menus?
  • Are lead forms easy to complete?
  • Is the information easy to find and understand?
  • Is copy benefit-oriented?
  • Are the words common to everyday language?
  • Is there plenty of help available and easily accessible?
  • Do searches result in enough (but not too many) hits?
  • Are instructions illustrated and understandable?

Layout and Style: Other Considerations

  • Too many flashing, scrolling or blinking elements can be overwhelming and distracting
Hand-Eye Coordination
  • Double clicking mouse or scrolling can be difficult for those with diminished motor capabilities
  • Increased size of area around link enhances use
Paragraph Justification
  • Left-hand = highest level of readability
  • Full = adds irregular spacing
  • Center for other than title should be avoided
  • A color wheel is often used by designers to choose colors from opposite sides of the wheel. These complimentary colors will enhance your site – e.g., primary = blue – complimentary = orange
  • Avoid colors that are exceptionally bright, fluorescence, or vibrant
  • Avoid combinations of blue and yellow or red and green
  • Increase contrast – i.e., dark text on light background – but avoid light colors on dark background
  • Keep it legible: Use larger type. Titles should be at least two points larger. Drop shadows can be difficult to decipher.
  • There are two types of typefaces – Serif and San Serif. Serif is usually better for this audience.
  • Use bold only to emphasize a title or key word(s)
  • Additional space between paragraphs and sections is good
  • An extra point or two of leading between lines can improve readability
  • The use of capital letters generally reduces readability.

For more helpful tips, make sure you check out our Checklist for Creating a Website for the 50+!

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