Web Designers: Don’t Ignore Seniors!

With any luck, one day all of us will be seniors: the demographic that includes people aged 65 or older. Even if you are far from reaching this milestone yourself, there are good reasons to consider this demographic when designing web content.

Full disclosure: this topic is a pet research interest of mine. About ten years ago, I researched this subject thoroughly and published Curb Cuts on the Information Highway in Technical Communication Quarterly. In short, I argued for more resources and better attention to this age group, offering some examples of sites that were “getting it right.”

In technology terms, my article is ancient; my interests have turned now toward using the iPad as a bridge for adults with age-related disabilities. But according to Jakob Nielsen, a renowned usability expert, one thing hasn’t changed: websites are still not “senior-friendly,” and designers are missing out on a growing (and often wealthy) group of customers. (Read Jakob Nielsen’s article Usability for Senior Citizens.)

It’s not that hard to make your site more usable. If you code to standards (particularly WCAG 2.0), most of the work is pretty basic: avoid tiny fonts; use white space around clickable links, etc. Some of it is pure common sense: keep text to a minimum, write simply, make it easy to recover from mistakes. Shouldn’t you already be doing that?

And if you’re not already designing for mobile, here’s another reason to get started: who do you think is buying all those iPhones? According to another Nielsen, the one that tracks marketing and spending, Baby Boomers are “marketing’s most valuable generation.” They spend close to 50 percent of all CPG dollars yet less than 5 percent of advertising is geared toward them.

The oldest Boomers are now past 65; maybe it’s time to get ready for this amazing opportunity for your online marketing.

What do you think? Is your site ready for the Boomers?