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Old age, new age: optimizing websites for seniors

senior on laptopIs your website appealing to everyone?

I.T. is often thought of as a young person's industry, but the people who use I.T. cut right across the ages, from toddlers with Leappads to pensioners with iPads.

This has particular implications for the way your website is designed, especially for your older customers. No longer can you assume that the person checking out your website has 20/20 vision, or is totally comfortable with the latest swiping techniques.

So, if you want to attract older customers, you'll need your website to work well for them in terms of their physical and previous IT experiences. In other words, your website needs to be accessible, flexible and adaptable. Here are the 7 top accessibility issues you need to consider.

1. Vision

Due to natural eye ageing, many people over 40 find it harder to read small text than they used to. Given the choice on devices such as Kindles, and even with their glasses on, most people over 65 will boost text size to above 18pt so they can read it better. So, your website needs to offer the function to increase text size without adversely affecting the design. Some age groups and those with visual impairment may also welcome the opportunity to have text read aloud to them.

2. Hearing

If you're planning on putting videos on your site, make sure the soundtrack or voiceover is crystal clear and not overwhelmed by background music or sounds. Hearing loss is prevalent amongst the over 65s, and even the best digital hearing aid will struggle with a video that has too much background noise during interviews, for example. Subtitle options can help those with severe hearing loss to receive your sales message loud and clear.

3. Manual dexterity

Young fingers are supple, older ones considerably less so. You need to ensure that your website has no awkward clicks or actions, especially when your website is being viewed on a touchscreen mobile device.  For example, items next to each other on screen, like fields in a form, need a buffer of at least 2mm between them to make them close together, but not too close! Buttons are ideally around 1cm wide, making them easy to touch.

4. Tablets for the elderly

Most older web users are not fans of smart phones, finding their screen size too small. However, many are great fans of tablets, so you need to ensure your website looks great on a whole range of tablets and iOS systems, including the forthcoming Samsung operating system.

5. Assumptions are dangerous

Older users may be unfamiliar with one of the most universal of web navigation tools - the scroll bar. If your target audience is older, make it very clear that there is "More below". Include arrows to indicate scroll direction. Make it easy for everyone, regardless of experience, to navigate your site.

6. Older customers take their time

For the web designer, and web copywriter, there is a major advantage in having a proportion of older customers. They are methodical in their approach, often reading far more text than customers half their age. So, don't be afraid to include lots of details in "Read more…" formats for those who want to read. What's more, if anyone is going to find the typos or the broken link on your site, (and be annoyed by it) it’ll be a senior!

7. Blue isn't the colour

As we grow older, our eyes find it more difficult to distinguish between similar colours. So, your website design needs to have sufficient contrast between background and foreground elements. In particular, functional text needs to have a high degree of contrast to the background and normal text. Blue is often be the default colour for hyperlinks on websites, for example, but shades of blue are the worst for older eyes to distinguish. So, if you're appealing to an older customer base, blue links are not the best idea.

Akira = accessible

At Akira, we create all our websites with WCAG 2.0 AAA level accessibility features built in. This international web design standard covers a multitude of features designed to ensure that everyone who wants to access your website, can access it easily. This covers optional features like text enlargement, subtitling and text readers, should you want them.

The ability of an Akira website to look fabulous on tablets is down to our adoption of responsive web design. This process automatically rescales and adapts your website design to whatever mobile device the customer is using, so your website always looks its best.

For more information, please don't hesitate to call us, and if you've noticed anything on our website that we could do better, do tell us!

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