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Web Design for our Grandparents

By spaspaporn
Aug. 24, 2012

Did you know that by the year 2050, the number of people aged 60 and older will have reached 2 billion? Did you also know people over the age of 60 will outnumber children aged 14 and under. In 2005, studies show that there were 12 million senior internet users in the United States alone. Considering that this number has increased by 104% in 2012, the statistics are staggering. As a Gen Y, I often take for granted how fortunate I was to grow up with technology and the opportunities I had to adapt with it. This is even more amazing when you think of children today, using smart-phones out of kindergarten and learning how to count and read on their tablets! Our experience with the decline in print leads to many of us who won't even miss phone books and encyclopedia sets. As intuitive as we imagine new technology is, we fail to take into account the usability of the content on the screen. Today, information architects, designers and developers need to take extra care in building for the New Majority. Anyone who has tried to teach their grandparents to use the internet will know how different the learning curve is and how relative 'intuitive design' can be. Some interesting things to take into account: 1)Many Elderly users do not grasp the concept of browser windows and scrolling. "Above the fold" has never been so important. If scrolling is necessary, get creative with educating the user to move down the page. » One element I have found helpful is a tab at the bottom of the screen that directs the user to (simply put) scroll down.

» Another way is to not use horizontal elements that suggest the 'end' of the screen. Splitting the body into columns creates ‘cut off’ points that show the user there is more below.

2) Older internet users have been more inclined to click on elements that were not links. » Make links OBVIOUS. Explicit instructions that use imperative forms of verbs are the most effective: "Click to read more details, Find a location here, Go to MY Account" » Studies have shown that senior users really enjoy DEFAULT BLUE, underlined links. It's true. With that side, make sure all links are colored (and underlined). 3) It has been found that many senior users will always go back to the homepage to restart browsing because they are unsure of where in the site they are or where they've been. » Pay close attention to Active, Visited and Hover links as well. All of these need to be distinct. 4) This is an obvious point but needs to be said: LARGE TEXT is imperative! » 12pts (14pts is even better) or larger for body text, at all times. INTERESTING FACT: those fun 'Resize text' buttons we think so highly of? Apparently, useless. Older users often do not understand how to use them. » Serif fonts are best for large amounts of text for readability 5)High contrast colors and avoid white on black » Off white background with black or dark type is ideal to reduce eye strain

» Low contrast design such as yellow backgrounds with white type is too difficult to read 6) During a study, control groups of 3 age ranges -- "20 somethings", "40 somethings", "seniors" -- were given a page to read. The youngest group averaged 2 mins, the middle aged group averaged 5-7 mins and the seniors took a whopping 12-15 minutes to read. » Carousels and dynamic elements rotating on a site need to have user specific controlling. Hover to pause is the most effective. The internet was meant to be accessible for all users. Next time you're designing or building a site, keep your grandparents in mind!

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