It’s an age-old cliché that technology is for the young. Whilst that in some cases is true, there are still a great deal of older users that like to take advantage of the wealth of technology that the modern world has to offer. Are you a web designer or do you run a website? Designing for this age group can be tricky, but rewarding, which is why we’ve put together this list of the most important do’s and don’ts on designing for the older user. Know the “what works” and “what does not work” in usability.
Overdo your design. If someone’s just learning how to use the web and how to navigate a web browser or an operating system, then the last thing they want is a whole host of icons cluttering up the screen that they’re never going to distinguish between. Keep things as simple as possible.
Use auto-playing sound. Whilst it could be argued that this should be a rule for all age groups (we’re not sure anyone likes it when an ad suddenly starts blaring out), auto-playing sounds can really make older people jump, and unlike more experienced users they won’t necessarily know how to shut it off.
Use flash in your design. Whilst flash is capable of some serious bells and whistles, for older users trying to get the number for a plumber all those fancy displays and graphics are just going to get in the way. If you want to use flash for videos and the like, then by all means do so, but keep it turned off the users specifically play them.
Have automatic menus. Menus that automatic flip down when the pointer hovers over the text annoy me hugely, so they’re certainly going to irritate less experienced users. By all means have menus that flip down, but make sure they only do so when they’re clicked on. All those appearing and disappearing sections can be pretty confusing for anyone.
Create a comforting design. Delicate, pastel like colors are the order of the day, unless your business really can’t do without those vibrant primary reds (ie, you’re Manchester United). Make your site pleasant and peaceful to look at.
Use decent size fonts. If someone’s used to only reading print, then their eyes will take some getting used to the glare of the web. Stop them having to strain so much by using larger fonts. Don’t make them too massive, obviously, but a couple of font sizes up will help a great deal.
Make clicks obvious. Older users aren’t going to be as aware of hyperlinks as a full-time blogger. How are they supposed to know that a phrase being underlined will lead to another link? If you’re unsure, then adding a ‘CLICK HERE TO…’ never fails.
Use an effective search bar. You might be able to cruise around a website at fifty miles an hour, but that doesn’t mean everyone can. Having an effective, fully functional search bar will do older users the world of good, enabling them to find what they’re looking for straight away without having to go on a two hour hunt for it.
Be concise. The younger generations have grown up scanning text and pulling the important points out of it. Older people, though, will likely read everything on a page. So keep it short and swift!