For those born after 1980, the world of tech is second nature. While those in their 50s were not born into a digital world, it has been around throughout their adult life. For this group, evolution to the online world has become easier. However, for those entering their senior years, web design is often inappropriate and inaccessible. It is not just that they do not enjoy the luxury of the digital native; accessing information from the screen is too small, the wrong colour, in an order that is not intuitive.
For businesses that cater to a senior market, ensuring your website is accessible is as important as redesigning a brick-and-mortar store. You wouldn’t think twice about a ramp at the entrance and a toilet on the ground floor, but do you give the same consideration to your online space. Here we offer some critical advice for welcoming your target market online.
Provide text for non-text content
Many people can only access the internet with the help of a screen reader. Therefore, any content that is not text is invisible to your user, including images of your products. To overcome this, you can use the alt-text for all graphical elements. Whether it is a photograph or a chart, providing a concise description for the alt attributes means the user will have access to this content.
Also, when producing websites for screen readers, use a logical headline order. Using semantic HTML can also help, as you let the screen reader know what element is on the page – whether it is a header, footer, website address, image or more.
Use a bigger font and audio alternatives
When getting older, we often have problems with our hearing and our sight. Therefore, when including audio and video, it is important to offer captions. It is possible now to use voice recognition software to generate these captions automatically.
Equally, it is important to make the font big enough to be read for any written content. At the same time, most elderly users may use a 200% zoom to show information in their browser, and you will need to test to see if the website remains readable.
Most people access the internet via a smart device, whether it is a phone or tablet. Therefore, accessing links takes a degree of hand-eye coordination and general steadiness that can become a challenge as we age.
Space out hyperlinks
As hyperlinks are a necessary navigation tool on a website, making them easily visible and simple to click is important. Surround links with plenty of white space means the link wanted can be clicked rather than another. It is especially important to make the call to action buttons large and have decent space for fingers to tap.
Use contrasting colours
While branding a website and making it look visually engaging feels of primary importance, for the elderly, this can be a barrier to reading text. Black text on a white or pale cream background will be the easiest to read from the screen. Keeping the colour palette simple also makes navigation around the page more logical.
Pop up explainers
A study by the Nielson Norman Group on the usability of websites aimed at the over 65 had only a 50% success rate. On average, they required almost five more minutes to move through the page and were four times more likely to make errors. People in the study aged over 65 showed discomfort with trying new things and were more likely to give up rather than seek help and support on the site, such as from a chatbot.
Consequently, it is a sound idea to give simple pop-up explainers for first-time users. If you introduce a new element to your website, again, it should be accompanied with a concise explainer on what it is and how to use it.
Ultimately, the role of your website is to be as easy as possible to use for your target market. If your audience is seniors, then the simplicity of design and basic use of colour, font and white space will make your site navigable. The more you think of your customers’ needs, the more loyal they will be to your brand.
Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR with past experience as a website editor and writer. Away from the keyboard, you can find her binging nature documentaries and dreaming up travel plans. Laura works with Glaze Digital in Northern Ireland.