At a time of social isolation, it is essential to design your online space in a way that includes those most in need of connection. Our elderly customers are now vulnerable in the physical world, and their hope of inclusion comes within the digital space. But how friendly is your website to those who are not native to the internet?

Here we offer some advice on how you can aid your elderly customers with some small tweaks to your website. Some of these tips acknowledge the physical changes that begin to hinder us as we grow older, and some are hints about how intuitive your design is for the elderly.

Tip 1: Label carefully

For those of us who use the internet daily, we can quickly identify the meaning behind icons. We become attuned to the digital language being deployed, and any text clutters a clean design. For those who are older, who are not used to this online code, this reliance on iconography can be disabling.

A simple example would be the search icon. It seems almost second nature to most users that this would be defined with a magnifying glass. However, imagine if you visited a foreign country and you were looking for a map – would you naturally head to the place with the magnifying glass on the side. It is a leap of logic that requires some comfort with the environment. Therefore, to help your older users, labelling with clear imperatives such as “Search” will help them navigate your website.

It would be best if you used a language that your elderly user will understand when labeling the icons. So, rather than symbols directing people to your chatbot, mark it merely with “Help”.

Tip 2: Clear enough to tap

Eyesight and hand-eye coordination grow poorer as we grow older. Many people will be coming to your website via a tablet. Imagine the scenario of the grandparent bought a tablet so they can facetime with their grandchildren at bedtime. It is unlikely that this elderly user is going to be sat at a desktop with a massive 30-inch screen. If your link is too small, it will be untappable. It would help if you created a more substantial portion of the screen that is sensitive to the touch of the older person.

This might also mean that you need to simplify your navigation, especially if you want to avoid scrolling. You will need to consider the essential links from your home page, which would take your elderly customer where they are most likely to want to go.

Tip 3: Colour is essential

It is worth noting that our eyes become less capable of distinguishing specific colours. Therefore, if you have text and background in the blue-yellow spectrum, your older customer is going to really struggle to tap through your navigation.

You, or your website designer, should have completed research on the perfect colour for your target audience. Colour psychology is a significant factor in influencing an emotional response in the user. This is even more the case as we grow older, where colours will trigger a more powerful emotional reaction than any interactive feature you include.

Therefore, not only do you need to be confident that there is a clear contrast between text and background, but you also need to consider the impact of that colour contrast. Keep the scheme clean and clear for ease of reading but also because it will have the most effect.

Tip 4: Size matters

This is an obvious one – but worth stating all the same. From about 30 onwards, when I eyesight peaks, we experience a gradual decline. At 40 this decline in our sight will become marked, and we will more likely struggle with presbyopia – or long-sightedness. It might be amusing to watch some older extend an arm further and further away from their face so that they can focus on the words, but it is also a barrier that cannot be ignored. You likely need a font size between 36 and 48 if the elderly at to read the text from the screen.

This might feel completely unrealistic – and it does limit what can go on your website. So, rather than tailor everything to one group, have a clear icon that allows the user to increase the size of the font for themselves. This should be an accessibility feature for all the top websites anyway, but definitely, if you want to help your older customers access your product or service.

Tip 5: Simplify navigation

Side menus are confusing to inexperienced users of the internet. Those menus that pop out from the side that is only cued by three horizontal lines – those are not intuitive for people unused to the internet. Also, if you don’t include a back button, there is a lot of anxiety and disorientation created, as they have no idea how to get back to where they were before.

If you do have a drop-down or push out menu, keep the options on this menu visible. You might want to be flashy with your tools – but you will end up intimidating to those who are fretful when online.

Tip 6: Onboard carefully

Finally, make signing up to your service or product transparent and straightforward. Again, remember the analogy of the foreign country – if you are a stranger, you are going to be more cautious about who you speak to and what information you share. Consequently, when asking for personal information to begin the purchase process, keep the information you need to a minimum. Spend time considering how you can offer reassurance in clear language about the security of your site and the seriousness with which you treat privacy.

Remember, the least amount of personal data for onboarding, the more likely you will keep the older user with you to completion of the sale.

In short

The only way for older people to stay connected in today’s strange world is through the internet. The more we can do to help them, the less excluded and isolated they should feel. It is more than techniques in digital marketing; it is a nod to the need to be more accessible than ever before.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has previous experience as a website editor and writer. She currently works with stairlift provider Olympic Lifts

Elderly customer stock photo by Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock