9 Creative Tips to Target Your Web Site to Seniors
With the growth of the senior Internet population well documented, the question for many online marketers remains: How do I design my Web site to effectively serve ― and capture the revenue of ― this growing population? The answer may be surprisingly easy: In many respects, don't do anything different.
According to a recent whitepaper from the market research firm Forrester Research, seniors don't require a whole new approach to Web site design. They seek the same fundamental site elements as younger users, namely useful, usable and enjoyable sites.
The whitepaper recommends considering these three attributes when designing a site to serve the needs of seniors:
- useful ― focus on a value proposition that's both clear and valued by older users;
- usable ― keep usability best practices in mind, such as creating clear menu categories and making text legible; and
- enjoyable ― create emotional connections based on health, safety, connectivity, contribution and legacy information.
A value proposition
While valuing many of the same sites and activities that attract younger users, seniors do have attributes that are unique to them, the whitepaper finds. Keep the following in mind when defining your site's value proposition:
1. Life stage and life events trump age. Think first about how to showcase the value your site offers to people at a particular life stage before worrying about how to present it in a way seniors will find appealing.
2. Templates and pathways help seniors find their way. Seniors often find blank screens and open-ended options daunting, the whitepaper notes. Use templates and tutorials in your operating system to invite users. For example, Microsoft Vista's welcome screen offers direct links to connect to the Internet, transfer files and settings, and edit or share photos.
3. Tables and other tools facilitate comparisons and comprehension. Usability studies show that older adults spend more time looking at ― and give a high usefulness rating to ― tables and other page layouts that facilitate comparisons of products and information, the whitepaper says. Seniors typically want to understand a value proposition thoroughly before committing to sharing information, making a purchase or even taking the next click.
Usability factors to test
With aging comes decreased visual acuity, hearing, mobility and cognitive abilities. To compensate, Web designers must factor in good legibility and interactive targets that are adequately sized when marketing to seniors. The whitepaper recommends factoring in the following design elements on your site:
4. Cautious clicking requires extreme clarity. Seniors are cautious about the next click online, fearing that they'll “break” the site, get lost or initiate some irreversible process. Consider using “tool tips” boxes to provide more detailed information on various elements of a page, the whitepaper says.
5. Propensity to read meticulously leaves no room for fluff. While younger users quickly scan Web pages, eye-tracking studies have shown that seniors read all that's on a Web page. Therefore, evaluate every element of every Web interface to make sure it adds value.
6. Bucking the labels “old” and “disabled” necessitates integrated assistance. Assistive technologies like a site reader or a haptic mouse can help seniors compensate for usability challenges. To integrate assistive tools into the baseline site experience, the whitepaper recommends providing links to increase font size, enhance contrast and turn on speech at the top of each page.
Research for better design
The whitepaper recommends taking the following three steps to help design your Web site for optimum performance from seniors:
7. Conduct ethnographic research. Conduct these studies in seniors’ environments because expecting them to sit down in front of a computer for usability testing may be assuming too much. When observing seniors “in their natural habitat,” pay attention to where the computer resides in their homes, when and how often they use it, and what alternative channels they use for accessing the value you plan to offer.
8. Build empathy on the design team. Since many designers are younger than their senior clients, make sure the entire team understands the needs of older customers. Use immersion exercises and sensitivity training to let designers experience what it's like for seniors to use a Web site.
9. Use personalization in lieu of segregation. Most often, design that works for seniors works for younger users as well. Therefore, there's no inherent need to build a separate site when older and younger users perform similar tasks, the whitepaper says. Determine whether your senior customers will approach the site in a fundamentally different way from younger users.