Insights into Online Design for Boomer Customers

We know that people aged 65 and older have made the Internet an integral part of their everyday lives. In a recent study, 77 percent report that they shop online. We also know that people ages 45 – 64 (boomers) are heavy online users as well, with 93 percent using email and 71 percent shopping online. Other regular online activities are going to the Internet to read news (73 percent), gather information (67 percent) and pay bills (66 percent). Three out of ten (30 percent) regularly watch videos online and 39 percent regularly go to networking Web sites, forums, message boards and chat rooms.

A survey by Hostway Inc., conducted by TNS, reports that more than 70% of consumers said that they’re unlikely to purchase from, or even return to, a web site after encountering a pet peeve. Moreover, because only 25% of consumers say they will complain to the companies about their pet peeves, the use of features that annoy consumers may be having a negative impact that is difficult to trace or measure.

Most internet visitors want to see the greatest improvement in the quality of the internet experience. Older adults want responsiveness to their individual needs along with simplicity of interaction, efficiency, economy and convenience. And, they want it delivered with respect! As you develop the website be guided by the following to improve the user friendliness of the site, increase the user’s satisfaction quotient and contribute to your brand message.

  1. Credibility Is Important. The “Welcome” page should be clear, readable and uncluttered. Increase credibility with high quality graphics and good writing. We also suggest the “Welcome” and “About Us” page copy to reflect an empathy with the visitor’s needs, who you are and why you’re their best choice.
  2. Recent research out of Stamford University confirms the power of images on websites. Using larger images of people in everyday life (and in the context of using your products and services) strengthens the power of the website. Increasing the number and size of images on the site will soften what could be described as a sterile image and add to the emotional appeal of the site.
  3. Avoid reverse type when possible. As we age, it becomes more difficult to read reverse type affecting the user friendliness of the copy.
  4. Avoid hyperbole, and talk with the consumer not to them. Improve the overall site to make better connections to the visitor by talking in the user’s language (more colloquial/conversational and less industry jargon).
  5. Colors used on the site – It’s estimated that 10 million American have low vision or functional vision loss and 60% are over the age of 55. Eyestrain and fatigue is a reality. By age 65: some cannot focus and have a reduced field of vision. Many have difficulty in resolving images, distinguishing colors, adapting to changes in light and are sensitive to glare. As we age, the need for contrast increases, the eyes may cloud and cataracts or yellowing reduces amount of light passing through the eye. Yellowing also reduces violet light registered by the eye. It’s easier to see reds, oranges and yellows and harder to see blues, greens and violets.
  6. Use outbound hypertext links to other sights of interest to the visitor (projects that authors have done their homework and not afraid to refer readers to other sites).

General Usability Guidelines:

  • Visit from different perspectives – computers, browsers, monitor displays. How does it look when printed?
  • Caption should be concise yet descriptive
  • Offer Search capability
  • Avoid broken links and “page not found” messages. User may perceive site is not maintained
  • Tables: Provide text only version of your page
  • Tell users what’s at the other end of the link
  • Does the website use metaphors often (easier to understand your message)?
  • Does the website present your messages in story format?
  • Is the background attractive without interfering with the information?
  • Are the colors easy to see and distinguish?
  • Is the text a good color, size and font?
  • Are the pages on the site the same style throughout?
  • Use large and clear buttons.
  • Are the pages and information clearly labeled?
  • Does each page have easy-to-use menus?
  • Is the information easy to find and understand?
  • Are instructions understandable? Do they have illustrations?
  • Are graphics useful, pleasant and easy to recognize?
  • Is audio clear, useful and non-intrusive? Don’t over-design the page:  Using the latest and greatest technology can discourage users
  • Make the directory human-readable and file names that reflect the nature of the page
  • Every page should have a link to the home page
  • Don’t have excessively long pages. Small % of users scroll beyond information that’s visible
  • Don’t make the URL complex
  • Don’t slow down the BACK button ; Second-most used navigation feature
  • Don’t arbitrarily open new browser windows. Disables BACK button and confuses users
  • Deviations from user interface standards make the web harder to use
  • Don’t omit biographies. Users want to know the people behind information on the web – increases trust and credibility
  • Don’t mimic web advertising. Design elements that look like web advertising may be ignored by users

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