Generation uX – how to make websites age-friendly Technology isn’t just for millennials

Age friendly websitesThe over-50s are almost a third of the UK population. They are online and they are 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 user-friendly for this demographic.

We change as we grow older. There are four main categories where this change is evident—vision, hearing, fine motor control and cognitive ability, and they all have an impact on how older people interact with websites. However, you can design webpages to be digiboomer-friendly. At Test Partners, we have over 100 checks we can use to assess a webpage. The following overview should get you thinking in the right direction.

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.

Vision

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

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.

NoiseIf 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. A variety of ailments that can have an impact on fine motor control, such as arthritis, can start in the late forties.

Navigation

Things you can do to make your website easier to use include making sure that clickable links and buttons have a decent clickable area, 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 years of age.

Make sure that 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.

Simple


It goes without saying that digiboomers and seniors are not universally affected by any of these considerations. There are plenty of people in this demographic who do not exhibit any of these issues. But by ensuring your website is age-friendly, you’ll be giving yourself a much better chance of tapping into this market.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Is your website age-friendly?

To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), Test Partners have prepared an introductory brochure about the digiboomer generation and their digital accessibility needs. Visit their site to find out more.

Find out more

Paul Crichton
Paul is Head of Accessibility and Digital Inclusion at Test Partners, specialising in technical accessibility testing and user testing. He has audited hundreds of websites from all sectors, including government, commerce and charity. For more than a year, he authored BBC Access 2.0, a blog on disability and technology, and has written for other publications including Ability Magazine.

4 Responses to “Generation uX – how to make websites age-friendly

  • A shame this very same page suffers from the same disease it complains about: low contrast gray text!

    • Tom Lloyd
      Tom Lloyd
      1 week ago

      Hi Tor, thanks for your feedback. I’d say there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to accessibility, and what works for one group of people might not work for another. For example, as a dyslexic person, I personally find the reduced contrast makes for easier readability on websites (see this article for more information), but again, this could make readability more difficult for others.

      What’s your approach to accessibility?

  • What’s with the gigantic random photos? Most of the pixels on this page don’t have anything to do with the content.

    To use Tufte’s term, this page is about 80% chartjunk.

    • Tom Lloyd
      Tom Lloyd
      1 week ago

      Haha, yeah kind of random although there is a kind of logic in my mind—I don’t like to go too literal with pictures (as sooo many blogs just show endless pictures of people using computers), so the associations may be a bit more abstract. Here’s my thinking behind each picture, section-by-section (starting from “Vision”):

      • The theme of this paragraph is around vision and colour perception, so I went with something with unusual colour contrast. It’s a tunnel (so “tunnel vision” connotations), and it tails off into the distance, meaning the end isn’t in sight (kind of a metaphor for short-sightedness).
      • The next one mentions background noise, so the idea behind the picture is that the static noise from the TV is a kind of background distraction from the real content. This is also known as “picture noise,” although I understand that most people probably wouldn’t get that
      • The next one is simply a depiction of a clear, clickable menu item, that explicitly shows on hover-over that it is indeed clickable. Pretty straightforward.
      • The final picture depicts a simple/uncluttered scene without too many distractions, mirroring the theme of this paragraph.

      As for the featured image of the article—just didn’t want to go with a cliche “old people” image. So there ya go 😉

Leave a Reply