In the fast-paced digital era of the 21st century, our senior population is on the rise. According to The UN, the world’s senior population (aged 60+) is projected to reach a staggering 2.1 billion by 2050. That is pretty much double what it is now. This dramatic shift in demographics begs the question: How does this impact web design? I am unsure if this blog post is driven due to my aging parents, or an aging designer; but, read on about Age-Inclusive Design.
As we progress into the future, it becomes imperative for businesses with an online presence to acknowledge and embrace the fact that a significant portion of their site visitors and users will be 65 years and older. Web designers, in particular, must take note of this demographic shift and begin to create age-friendly websites for their clients. By adopting age-inclusive design practices, businesses can have a profound positive impact on older site visitors and users.
Understanding Age-Inclusive Design
When we think about older generations, certain stereotypes often come to mind, such as an older person with a cane or in a wheelchair. Many people also tend to assume that all older individuals have some level of cognitive impairment. However, the reality is quite different. The majority of older people have no cognitive or mobility issues. So, how can we design websites that cater to the needs of older generations?
Age-friendly design goes beyond simply using larger fonts or design elements that aid hearing impairments. It involves creating products and services that address the unique challenges faced by older people. It also means designing products and websites that appeal to older adults, who are often excluded from product research and design processes.
Seizing the Growing Opportunities for Age-Friendly Design
You may wonder why it’s crucial to design age-friendly websites. As mentioned earlier, the over-60 age group is frequently overlooked during product research and design phases. Yet, this age group accounts for approximately half of all consumer spending. Furthermore, the number of seniors worldwide is expected to increase in the coming years. By neglecting to design for this demographic, businesses risk missing out on a significant market.
Additionally, many individuals aged 55 and older have been using technology for a substantial part of their lives. They are not afraid to try and embrace new technologies. In fact, innovative technologies have the potential to greatly enhance the lives of older adults.
For instance, aging-in-place solutions, such as fall detection devices, medicine management systems, and robots designed to maintain an older person’s independence and improve their quality of life, are gaining popularity.
Designing for Age Inclusivity
Age-inclusive design involves abandoning biases about older people. Not everyone ages at the same rate or in the same way. One of the biggest misconceptions about older individuals is that they are unable to learn new technologies or have no interest in doing so. However, this is far from the truth in today’s world.
Age-inclusive design revolves around considering the needs of older adults. It encompasses how they use products, services, programs, technology, and navigate physical spaces. The only way to truly understand what seniors need is by allowing them to communicate their requirements.
Age-inclusive design goes beyond mere accessibility considerations. It is essential to grasp what motivates and brings joy to older adults. Engage them in research studies and collaborate with them during the design process. Listen to their insights and observe their behaviours.
Designing for Older Adults: Practical Steps
In this section, we will explore practical steps to design websites and products with seniors in mind. These steps will ensure that your websites and products embrace age inclusivity:
- Know Your Target Audience: In the past 15 to 20 years, computer and internet usage among seniors has been steadily increasing. Most individuals over 50 now use the internet daily. Conduct market research specific to this age group to understand their pain points, desires, and preferences before designing for this target audience.
- Make Your Sites User-Friendly: While many companies design their websites with accessibility in mind, there are specific considerations for older adults that often go unaddressed. For example, some older internet users may become frustrated when a site’s navigation makes it difficult to find the information and products they need. When users, regardless of age, encounter frustration, they are more likely to leave the site and never return. Therefore, it is crucial to keep navigation intuitive and simple.
Here are a few additional considerations to remember when designing an age-friendly site:
- Highlight words: Emphasise important information by using bold or different coloured text.
- Create meaningful subheadings: Break up content with clear subheadings that help users scan and understand the structure.
- Use bulleted lists: Present information in concise, easy-to-digest bullet points.
- Keep one idea per paragraph: Avoid overwhelming older users with long paragraphs and stick to one main idea per paragraph.
- Write copy with half the normal word count: most people appreciate concise and straightforward content that gets to the point efficiently.
Older adults seek responsiveness to their needs, which includes simple interactions, efficient sites, and convenience.
- Design for the Physical Changes of Aging: When designing for seniors, it’s important to consider age-related challenges that may arise:
- Vision: As individuals age, their vision tends to decline, making it more challenging to read web pages and apps with small fonts or low-contrast elements. Vision decline can affect eyes differently, but most seniors report issues with reduced contrast sensitivity, reduced colour perception, and weaker near focus.
- Physical ability: As eyesight declines, the body also undergoes changes that can make it difficult to control a mouse. Conditions like arthritis and reduced dexterity can affect fine motor control. Additionally, cognitive information processing tends to slow down with age, resulting in tasks taking longer to complete.
- Hearing: Some older adults may experience hearing loss, making it harder for them to hear high-pitched sounds or separate sounds when background music or noise is present.
- Cognitive ability: As individuals age, thinking and learning abilities slow down. Navigating websites and completing online tasks may become more challenging due to short-term memory and concentration issues.