On June 4, 2012, I blogged about mistakes often made by website designers (The Eyes Have It) and offered basic suggestions to improve online communications readability for older populations. I wrote that according to AIGA, the professional association for design, considerably younger people prepare much of the information intended for older eyes and typically base their creative decisions upon how the world looks to them through their younger eyes (frame of reference).
On April 10,2012 Hubspot writer Corey Eridon posted a blog entitled “15 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website” summarizing a list of some of the most annoying things seen on websites. All of the points made are appropriate for all ages but especially for baby boomers and seniors. I’ve taken the liberty to edit and add to Corey’s comments. There is no doubt that website design, if not paid attention to, significantly contributes to high abandonment and low conversion rates.
Sites that open to music can be distracting from the premise/point(s) of the landing page content. Moreover, music selections are very subjective as individual tastes vary. The sixty year old is not simply a thirty-year-older version of their thirty-year-old self. And, the older crowd typically doesn’t resonate with today’s younger music.
Broken links. One of the typical annoyances is the lack of site management. Broken links result in frustration and annoyance. Baby boomers and seniors have a low tolerance for this annoying experience. Check out your site periodically to assure all is well in cyberspace.
Long Paragraphs of Text
Don’t have long paragraphs of text without some bold headlines and/or bullet points. Break paragraphs into three to four short sentences and keep them to a minimum. By the way, don’t make your homepage too long with too many competing choices.
Mobile User Friendly
Two out of ten people (including older folks) own a Smartphone. Is your site mobile user friendly? Can mobile visitors navigate your site or does it lead to user frustration? Simplicity of site design will help avoid this issue and your mobile visitors will appreciate it.
There was a time when websites were loaded with copy (relevant and irrelevant). The sites included keyword-dense copy meant for crawlers, not humans. It’s best to write for humans not for crawlers. Google’s sophisticated algorithm(s) is better at determining a page’s relevancy than it was 10 years ago, so keep it relevant.
They’re more annoying than productive and very distractive. The level of site stickiness/potential leads is directly related to the quality of your content/images and offers. Interruptions are not the road to good visitor experiences and for developing good relationships, and it’s a relationship the older visitor may be interested in. Also, don’t use banner ads that dropdown when rolled over and block header navigation. Finally, don’t use popup boxes that are really hard to close and stay in the center of the screen.
Including a ‘Contact Us’ Form in Lieu of Contact Information
“Contact Us” module on your site should never be the only means of communication between you and your customers and making all fields mandatory doesn’t make the visitor very happy. If your visitor needs help, they typically want it now. Encourage visitors to contact you via email, telephone and social media. Make contact information available on every page of your website.
Generic Stock Photography
Stock photography may work great when used as metaphors to clarify your point. However, if you want to use people to promote the experience your product or services provides, it’s best to be authentic and honest in the images you use. Show pictures of customers, real people that work at your company, your product, and your location. Avoid stock photography as it lacks authenticity.
Using Website Advertising Interstitial Pages
Stay away from using website advertising interstitial pages on your site pages. Interstitials are web pages displayed before or after an expected content page, often to display advertisements or for other reasons. It’s manipulative at best and downright annoying. Older people especially may take issue with the use of such pages to present online advertising before allowing them to see the content they were trying to access.
Automatically Playing Multimedia Content When a Page Loads
Provide visitors a choice to play multimedia content. Animations, auto-play videos, blinking and flashing paid advertisements, and other interactive entertainment may seem really cool but it detracts from a visitor’s focus during the first critical 3 seconds on your site. Keeping simplicity and purpose at the center of design decisions is generally better, and translates better across multiple browsers, channels and devices.
You Don’t Have a Blog
Blogs can improve credibility about your subject matter expertise. Baby boomers and seniors value credibility, want to learn about you and perform in-depth company research on their own before ever contacting you and ‘About Us’ pages aren’t enough to tell the full story. After reading through a sample of blog posts over a long span of time, visitors have a much better understanding of who you are, what you believe, and the culture of your company.
Place a Newsletter Signup Box on the Site
If you can offer a newsletter or other periodic information that provides value to your site visitor place a simple signup box prominently on each of your pages. If you use signup forms, including unnecessary fields (e.g., job title or age) are turn offs.
Unintelligible ‘About Us’ Page
Does your ‘About Us’ page (for that matter all your pages) explain what you do in business jargon (speak), or do they use the words and phrases common to the general population? If you design your site for business visitors, using limited business jargon may be appropriate. If you’re selling directly to the customer, speak their language. Talk to them using a casual conversation tone. Test your content on “the woman/man on the street”.
Titles and Content are Incongruous
If you’re an avid content creator, you know how important a well-crafted title is. Great titles are what cause people to click through in their RSS, emails, and search engines to read what you have written. But if you push content unrelated to the title you provided, you’ll disappoint visitors — and they’ll abandon your site.
Your Call-to-Action Copy Doesn’t Align With the Offer
Along the same lines, your call-to-action should align with what visitors receive when they redeem your offer. There’s nothing more frustrating than promising a 50% off coupon in the call-to-action copy, only to attempt to redeem it and find there’s a caveat that says you must first spend $500 on select items or it’s for in-store purchases only. This is insulting to your visitors and will also damage your reputation and the conversion rates of your calls-to-action and landing pages.
Not Including Social Sharing Buttons on Your Content
These buttons make social sharing easy for your readers so they don’t have to copy and paste your URL, shorten it, and compose a tweet. And easy social sharing options means your content gets more visibility, which means more site traffic, better search engine rankings, and more lead generation opportunities.
Visitors Don’t Know What to Do
When someone lands on your site, do they know what to do? Do they immediately see what your website does, what the value of that is, and what they should do next? Does it include clear headline copy, jargonless page copy clearly explaining the value of what you do? Do you have one clear primary call-to-action per page that shows visitors how to take the next steps e.g., subscribing to your blog, getting a free trial, watching a video, or any other action you hope visitors will perform on your site.
Your Internal Linking Isn’t User-Friendly
Internal links point readers to other relevant information, adds value to your site and helps you to improve the organic ranking for important pages on your own website. Include the link on the anchor text that makes the most sense. Also, recognize that sometimes, the link that makes the most sense isn’t keyword-optimized anchor text. Be sure to have all links open into a new tab in your browser, not the same window to avoid navigating them away from the original page they were reading.
Many designers use an abundance of Flash on clients’ websites and it’s enough to make baby boomers and senior site visitors cringe. Visitors are often looking for a very specific piece of information when visiting your site. If they have to wait for an 8 -10-second visual introduction to unfold on the screen before they can find your hours of operation, you’re going to have a frustrated customer (or would-be customer, depending on their level of patience). Also, from a practical matter search engines won’t index your site because they can’t read Flash.
Make it Pleasurable to Shop Online
Rich Page, a website testing and optimization author and strategist, currently working for Adobe offers the following suggestions to make your customers purchase experience pleasurable. It’s good advice no matter what the visitor’s stage of life :
- Don’t make it mandatory for a visitor to register before they can view content.
- When a user makes an error on one of your forms, clearly show them what is wrong or how to fix it.
- Be sure to show user submitted product reviews or allow users to submit their own and allow visitors to purchase items as a guest.
- Don’t show product features without showing product benefits.
- Don’t make it hard for your visitor to remove or change item quantities in your shopping cart and don’t add on previously unmentioned fees on the order review page.
- Don’t only offer one image of your product, with no zooming in or rotating it. Have a Pop-up a ‘can I help?’ web chat window on many pages.
- Don’t wait to inform a customer that a product is out of stock until order confirm page and make it easy to find your shipping returns or product guarantee policies.
- Make it easy to find your store locator link and offer a field that users can type in coupon codes, and be sure to tell users where they can get them.
- Don’t offer an internal search box on your site, or hide it away
- Bury away your main call to action button or make it too small
- Have a homepage content slider that scrolls really quickly with no controls
- After they arrive from a paid search ad, show them nothing to do with what they just clicked on
- Offer no way of filtering results on search results or browse pages
- Make your text hyperlinks look a similar color to your regular text
- Have more than 3 ads showing above the fold (especially ads that are matching)
- Offer too many competing calls to actions on one page
- Have sideways scrolling sections of your website
- Don’t offer an FAQ or support forums on your site
- Make your navigation menus really long with way too many un-important links
- Don’t offer a way for a user to retrieve a lost username or password
- Use dark text or dark backgrounds, or light text on light backgrounds
- Don’t allow commenting on your articles, or make it really hard to
- Mention your product is ‘free’ only for visitors to find it has limited features, with ‘upgrade’ fees
- Show video ads longer than 30 seconds between every short video on your site
- For all of your call to actions, use ‘click here’ as the text
- Don’t check what your site looks like in all major browser types, and have it break in one of them
- Have really poor, irrelevant and too many internal search results
- Show ‘web chat available’, and after a user clicks on it say it’s not available and email instead
- Offer no ability or few options to sort or refine products on a browse page
- After a user has registered on your site, send them many emails per week
The points above offer advice to make your website more user friendly. You should understand what baby boomer and senior visitors expect to find when they enter your site and just give it to them, without pushing unwanted content. If you take the suggestions to heart, trust me, your boomer and senior website visitors will thank you for it and come back more often and increase your conversions and overall revenue. Moreover, your site will be more user friendly to people in all stages of life resulting in more abundant returns on your investment of time and money.