How to make websites age-friendly

Posted on June 16, 2017
2 min read

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The over-50s are almost a third of the UK population. They are online and spending money – £14.45 billion on the web in 2015 alone—76% shop online at least once a week. The over 50s (or digiboomers) are an affluent generation, too, and own almost 70% of all household wealth in the UK.

Tapping into the digiboomer market isn’t just a case of throwing up a few pictures of youthful-looking older people. It also means making your website accessible to this demographic.

We change as we grow older. There are four main categories where this change is evident: visual impairments, hearing, fine motor control, and cognitive ability, and they all impact how older people interact with websites.

Vision

Peak eyesight is around 30 years old. After the age of 40, many people’s sight is noticeably worse. Presbyopia—commonly known as age-related long-sightedness—is just one of the issues that can affect the digiboomer. Less well-known is that aging also reduces colour perception and colour sensitivity.

If you want to make sure that a digiboomer has a good experience on your website, ensure that the text size is at least 12pt and that the colour contrast between the text and the background is clear.

Hearing

When it comes to hearing, Action on Hearing Loss (formally the RNID) says that hearing loss begins to increase sharply at around the age of 50, and that 55% of people over 60 are deaf or hard of hearing.

If you have audio or video content on your website, make sure that there isn’t too much background noise, that they are subtitled (or closed captioned) accurately, or that a transcript is provided.

Fine motor control

Fine motor control and hand-eye coordination also diminish over time. Various ailments impacting fine motor control, such as arthritis, can start in the late forties.

To make your website easier to use, you can make sure that clickable links and buttons have a clear clickable area and are spaced far apart and that pages can be navigated using just the keyboard. It helps if there isn’t too much functionality requiring a steady hand, like hovering over elements to reveal help pop-ups.

Cognitive ability

As we get older, we become more conservative on websites—one study showed that 45% of older people interviewed were reluctant to try new things or explore a website. Interactions tend to be slow and methodical. Older people are twice as likely to abandon a task as someone under 30.

Ensure your website is as simple to understand and use as possible. Use plain English, and keep the acronyms and jargon to a minimum. Try not to have too many components that can be distracting, like automatically changing carousels.

Digiboomers and seniors are not universally affected by any of these considerations. Plenty of people in this demographic do not exhibit any of these issues. But by ensuring your website is age-friendly, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of tapping into this market.

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