In 2013, 52% of seniors were online, bringing the total number to 20.9 million people. This number is sure to grow, as the percentage of seniors in the general population is projected to rise from 13% in 2010 to 19.6% by 2030, making them an ever more valuable audience for companies of all sizes. To increase online success with seniors, making your website senior-friendly can be a large contributor to their satisfaction with your brand and your service.
Seniors often struggle with tasks online and report issues with usability and wasted time looking for information. These problem areas can be easily targeted and solved with a few simple changes to clean up and improve your website.
Modifications to Make
There are many small modifications you can make to your existing website to make it more senior-friendly. Consider changing the following to create a better experience for your senior audience.
- Font size. Many seniors suffer from diminishing vision and can’t read small text on websites. Make your content easy to read so they won’t miss any important information or get frustrated. It is recommended to use at least a 12-point font with the option to increase the size further if necessary. Sans serif fonts (e.g. Helvetica) also increase readability.
- High-contrast colors. Make your text contrast with your background to further increase readability. Light-colored texts on light backgrounds are hard to distinguish, as are words against a pattern or image. Keep the background a solid color and in high contrast with the text.
- Clear and clean hyperlinks. Your site’s hyperlinks should be large and distinguished text, making it easier for seniors to find and click on, especially if they are not proficient with using a mouse. Increase space between hyperlinks to avoid accidental clicks, and distinguish clearly between visited and unvisited links in order to make it easier to remember which links have already been visited.
- Easy navigation options and organization. Use large buttons that clearly stand out for the homepage and other commonly visited pages. There should also be an obvious, clean organization to your site, where seniors can easily guide themselves from a starting point to an end point and back. Outline where and how users can better navigate your site, and use clear, numbered instructions to alleviate confusion. On the same note, be mindful of any menus on your site. Menus that incorporate hidden dropdown submenus can be a nuisance to anyone not familiar with your website.
- Limit sudden, drastic changes to your core website to avoid confusion and frustration. Be consistent, and provide instructions on how to continue and navigate when changes are made to the website.
- Text-to-speech options. Allow users to have the option to have text read aloud for all of the content on your website. iSpeech is a company that offers text-to-speech services, as is ReadSpeaker, which offers multiple online reading options that can be implemented into a wide range of content management systems.
- Limit scrolling. Keep your content minimal, and have clear, simple sentences within short sections. Smaller amounts of information are easier for seniors to understand and retain.
- Easy-to-find contact information. Keep your key information, such as contact information, easy to find. For a generation that is used to picking up the phone and making a call, give seniors the option to reach you in ways that they are familiar with. Put your email, phone number and street address, if appropriate, in multiple places on a page, either on top, bottom and/or on the side.
- Avoid web jargon, or define it. Seniors aren’t always familiar with web jargon and will likely get frustrated and ignore it instead of asking what it means. This could include terms like “CAPTCHA” or “plug-in.”
- Minimize the need for external plug-ins or software. As modern web browsers are making certain plug-ins redundant, try to ditch Flash or Acrobat Reader in favor of HTML5. The fewer pieces of extra software your senior audience needs to download, the less frustration they’ll experience as they use your site.
Consider usability testing with a small group of your target audience. Watch and listen as they complete tasks on the site, and take note of where problems develop. Avoid helping or hinting, and identify areas that can be improved. Ask them what was difficult and what they liked, then correct any problems.
When to Make These Changes
You should consider making these changes if your target market consists of a large number of seniors. This is likely if your business is in the realm of health information, travel booking, spiritual interests, banking or other common areas of senior interest. If seniors constitute a large portion of your website’s traffic, or if you want to market more directly to seniors, then these changes will be worth the effort.
However, most of the changes necessary for making a website senior-friendly are helpful for all age groups and target markets, since the changes are often small and improve usability for everyone. These changes will increase satisfaction among all user groups and are clearly worth the effort across the board.