Designing a User Experience for Older People

by UX Blog Team

Technology is always on the move. In a little over a decade, we went from using feature phones to smartphones as powerful as laptops. Now everybody can become a vlogger thanks to innovations in smartphone cameras and anybody can launch a website thanks to platforms like WordPress.

However, advancing technology often leaves the elderly behind. Fewer seniors can get on board with the latest innovations. It’s time to adapt our technology for elderly users — they can make up a large percentage of your audience, after all!

Not sure where to start? Take a moment to study your website. Web design is one of the first corners to improve and we’ve got 6 crucial tips for you to follow:

Adjusting for Text Size

Keep in mind that a lot of the factors discussed below relate to failing vision. This is because eyesight is one of the first abilities humans lose with age. People can expect problems as early as the age of 40, such as difficulty reading small print.

The problem with technology for elderly people is that font size often gets neglected. It’s easy to forget about their difficulties and simply use a 12 point font size because it’s the industry standard.

You can use that same font size but make sure you add the option to increase the text size. Allow elderly visitors on your website to reach a 32 or even 36 point font size if it helps them read your content. Instead of scaring them away with tiny text, give them the freedom to make it bigger and bolder to fit their failing vision.

Color Variation Matters

Your choice of colors matters too, not only for seniors but for people who are color blind too. Everything might look neat and pretty to you but to a senior, they might experience difficulty distinguishing some text from the background.

Take a moment to use tools on sites like WebAIM or Color.a11y to test how your site currently performs.

Don’t stick with a “one colorblind solution for all” because there are multiple types of color blindness. Instead, feature a color slider or at least different color viewing modes to give elderly and color blind people more options.

Videos and Text-To-Speech

Did you know most elderly people prefer to watch the news instead of reading it? This goes back to the issue of vision complications that come with aging. As people get older, their vision weakens and reading becomes more of a chore than a delight.

Workaround this by including videos on your website. If you can, feature both a video and its written version on the same page, similar to how does with their movie reviews. This gives the elderly the option to enlarge the text and read, if they so choose, or to simply watch the video.

Don’t stop with videos.

You might have seniors with almost no vision capabilities visiting your website. How can they enjoy your videos if they can’t see the content? The perfect solution is to include text-to-speech.

Clicking and Tapping

While the number of seniors using smartphones increased in the past few years, a large percentage still relies on tablets instead. It makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it.

Don’t forget that as people age, their motor skills decrease, making it difficult to use something as basic as a mouse or a tiny smartphone screen. Tablets have a larger screen, which makes it easier to read the text and also easier to click or tap onto interactive elements such as buttons or links.

Take advantage of this information!

First off, make sure everything they can tap or click on is big enough and spaced far enough from other interactive elements. It can get extremely frustrating for a senior to tap the screen only to realize they hit the button beside the one they intended to tap. They might quit instead of going back to the previous page.

The common recommendation is to ensure interactive buttons are at least 11 mm diagonally and 2 mm apart from each other. That said, make sure buttons and links can scale up along with the font. This guarantees elderly people can make them bigger to suit their individual needs.

Even Easier Navigation

It shouldn’t take more than three clicks to get to any page on your site. If it does, seniors might get lost navigating through the pages and give up.

Also, don’t assume that older people automatically understand the “language,” so to speak, of navigating a website. Younger folks might identify the hamburger icon as the button to access the menu but older people might not. If you can, include text to ensure seniors don’t get lost in translation.

Do you want one of the best examples of easy navigation? Check out the website for MAC Cosmetics. The few picture symbols they use are easy to identify, such as the mail icon for new subscriptions.

Test Technology for Elderly Users

Believe it or not, one of the best websites fit for elderly use is Amazon. It stumbles a little bit in terms of navigation but the web design and its use of text-to-speech and clear distinction between text and elements help it stand out from the rest.

Of course, you can’t copy Amazon inch-per-inch.

The solution is to constantly test your web design. If possible, invite two to three groups of seniors and have each group navigate through different design drafts. Discover which of the two or three drafts clicks with them.

Make sure to include a questionnaire or survey. Find out what elements of the web design they liked, which parts they encountered difficulties and their suggestions to improve the UX and UI.

Design the Best UX for Older People Today!

Adapt technology for elderly people and improve your web design to welcome them instead of scaring them away. Implement these strategies to make your site easy to navigate and use.

Of course, senior users aren’t your only audience. You also need to improve the UX for SEO purposes and more.

The good news is we have more guides for you to check out. Here’s one discussing 5 great steps to drastically improve your UX now!

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