Some companies are making their websites more senior-friendly


Text difficult to see clearly. Small buttons that are difficult to select. Key content hidden behind confusing icons.

These are just a few of the reasons that many older people with deteriorating vision and dexterity say they have trouble surfing the internet, a problem that has become more acute recently as the pandemic forces more. more people going about their business online than ever before.

This was a problem, of course, long before the pandemic, and some companies had already started redesigning their websites to better serve seniors. While most of these companies provide products and services aimed at the elderly, some consultants and designers claim that the changes they are making may soon be adopted more widely, as the elderly population and its purchasing power increase. .

“The economy is changing,” says London designer John Corcoran, who predicts that companies will increasingly listen to the needs of the baby boom population when designing apps and websites.

A UK study by Beyond Consultancy, a design and technology consultancy, and Savanta Group Ltd., a marketing research firm, found that 58% of people aged 65 and over say they have increased their use of the technology over the past six months, but only 42% of the same group say they find the technology easy to use and 13% say going online is a frustrating experience.

Seniors will quickly abandon a business website that is inaccessible to them, which in times of an e-commerce and services pandemic is tantamount to abandoning the business, said Nick Rappolt, CEO of Beyond.

Importance of contrast

Andrea Cosindas, a 73-year-old former teacher from Holbrook, Mass., Logs in once a week to check her emails, bank accounts and work intranet at Nordstrom.com, where she is employed part-time. Sometimes she reads the news online or uses the Waze app on her phone to get directions.

Other than that, she avoids the Internet because she often has trouble using it.

“My vision has deteriorated over the years, so the font on my phone is often too small to be seen, but using the computer at home is less convenient,” says Ms. Cosindas. “Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a period and a comma. And it’s also very frustrating when I ask Siri something and she doesn’t understand what I’m saying.

Apparently she is not alone. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 26% of internet users aged 65 and over were “very confident” when using computers, smartphones or other electronic devices. Seniors who reported health problems, disabilities or handicaps were less likely to use the Internet, according to the report.

Since launching in 2015, the SingleCare prescription dispensing company, owned by Boston-based RxSense LLC, has gradually redesigned its website to better meet the needs of users aged 50 and over. complete a task on the site in three steps or less, says Alex Zaky, senior vice president of products, based in New York City.

“As a result, we’ve streamlined our navigation, simplified the nomenclature with user-friendly terminology, and increased the size of the buttons for ease of use,” he says.

The SingleCare website has also been visually adjusted. All of the fields for users to enter text in are white, so they’re clear and easy to see, and important text has been enlarged, Zaky said.

A text size of less than 12 points is difficult to read for people with imperfect vision, says Corcoran, the London designer. Sans-serif fonts are also preferable to serif type, he says, because small strokes added to the end of a letter or serif symbol can “break” in the eyes of a person with deteriorating eyesight. Websites need to make sure they don’t lock things down or put text on the page as an image file, he adds. “The end user should be able to resize, recolor and change the font to suit their own needs,” he explains.

The contrast is arguably the biggest help for those who struggle to read the news up close, says Jonathan Hassell, founder and CEO of Hassell Inclusion, a London-based accessibility consultancy. The yellow and black used in international airport signage work well as high-contrast text and a combination of background colors, he says; SingleCare opted for a very contrasting palette of white, purple, pink and bright lime green.

Auriens Ltd., a luxury London residence scheduled to open in 2021, has also opted for a clean website favoring clear signage of information. Rather than hiding section links in a drop-down menu, the site displays all of its navigation options in a sidebar.

“It’s about being logical,” says David Meagher, CEO of Auriens. “Consistency is important. “

The use of bright and bold colors is central to the design of Ageist, a media platform founded in 2015 for over 50s.

Ageist claims that its website, which is updated frequently to improve the user experience, is designed for easy navigation: menu items are displayed clearly at the top of the home page, and the site only requires a few scrolls. to reach the bottom. Websites with infinite scrolling, where a user can never reach the ‘end’ of a site’s content, aren’t popular among older people, says platform founder David Stewart, 65. years.

A linear and clearly signposted, newspaper-like design is the format in which they want to consume the information, he says. And the idea of ​​spending hours on the internet hoping to find something cool doesn’t appeal much to Mr. Stewart’s age group, he says. “We’re not that fun going down a rabbit hole of discovery,” he says.

‘Fidly’

So why haven’t more companies changed their websites to accommodate seniors, given the size and purchasing power of the audience? The problem isn’t the complexity of the design, says Hassell. It is the complexity of the public and its multiple needs.

Many designers know they have to adapt to users with extreme forms of disability, says Hassell. What they often don’t consider is the experience of those who live with several mild but limiting impairments – the subtle and multifaceted deterioration in things like near vision and dexterity that often comes with age.

Accessibility legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, and organized accessibility campaigns also focus on the needs of people with severe disabilities such as blindness, rather than multiple minor disabilities, such as those of the elderly. , he said. Plus, he says, older people often don’t have the technical language to officially complain about their issues online.

“What they normally do is describe things with words like ‘delicate’, when they mean that something has been designed for someone with much more dexterity or precision than they are.” , he said.

Still, Mr Hassell says he expects calls for a better website for seniors to grow as the population grows and seniors use social media to voice their demands. en masse. “Legislation can help,” he says, but it’s really “about getting the CEOs and CIOs of all companies to take it seriously.”

Easy on the eyes

To accommodate seniors, companies like Auriens, a retirement home in London, are designing websites that are easier to read and navigate.

Rather than hiding links in a drop-down menu, the site displays navigation options in a sidebar section. The names are simple.

A clean website favors clear signage of information.

Linear and well-labeled design, similar to that of a newspaper.

Pop-up messages that are difficult to click are prohibited.

The high contrast color scheme of orange on black improves visibility.

Offers ways to get in touch both online and offline (via phone number)

The site does not require more than a few scrolls to reach the bottom.

Rather than hiding links in a drop-down menu, the site displays navigation options in a sidebar section. The names are simple.

A clean website favors clear signage of information.

Linear and well-labeled design, similar to that of a newspaper.

Pop-up messages that are difficult to click are prohibited.

The high contrast color scheme of orange on black improves visibility.

Offers ways to get in touch both online and offline (via phone number)

The site does not require more than a few scrolls to reach the bottom.

Rather than hiding links in a drop-down menu, the site displays navigation options in a sidebar section. The names are simple.

A clean website favors clear signage of information.

Linear and well-labeled design, similar to that of a newspaper.

Pop-up messages that are difficult to click are prohibited.

The high contrast color scheme of orange on black improves visibility.

Offers ways to get in touch both online and offline (via phone number)

The site does not require more than a few scrolls to reach the bottom.

Rather than hiding links in a drop-down menu, the site displays navigation options in a sidebar section. The names are simple.

A clean website favors clear signage of information.

Linear and well-labeled design, similar to that of a newspaper.

Pop-up messages that are difficult to click are prohibited.

The high contrast color scheme of orange on black improves visibility.

Offers ways to get in touch both online and offline (via phone number)

The site does not require more than a few scrolls to reach the bottom.

Ms Deighton is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in London. Email him at [email protected]

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