Make Websites Easier for Older People

The day I bought my mother a cell phone, she cried. Believe me, they weren’t tears of happiness. She looked at all those buttons and numbers and codes and had a little meltdown. We put the phone away and gave her a new cordless phone instead.

My mom is 70, and while there are plenty of hip 70-year-olds e-mailing pictures of their grandkids around and doing online banking, not all of them are. To many people of my mother’s generation, the online world is utterly confusing. They look at websites with no history and with no idea how to navigate.

At the same time, more people are moving into a 60-and-older age bracket than ever before. These are the people who will be using your website. If you’re a non-profit, these are also the people who may be looking for ways to donate their money and time.

Make it easy for them. Here are a few things to keep in mind when presenting a website to older viewers:

Put the most important information up top.

This should be a given no matter what age demographic your audience is. But in studies, older users failed to scroll down the page because they didn’t know it was a possibility.

Explain things in plain English.

We’re all guilty of using too much jargon, but sometimes we don’t realize how much. These are all terms that may confuse: user, content, URL, homepage, browser.

Use a search tool.

Studies have shown that older audiences are more likely to use a search tool to find items than younger people. One possible reason is that younger users are more accustomed to conventions of placing items on a page or within navigation.

Provide a text resizer.

This makes it easy for people with visual limitations to increase the font on the page. Some older users find anything less than 12 points a challenge to read.

These tips are common sense. Follow them, and your website will be easier to use not only for older people, but for everybody.

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