Not everyone over 70 has eyesight so bad that they need to increase the size and color of the text. However, we should still need to consider some design elements that could work well for them. Many people above 60 years old have limited computer skills, so we also need to consider this aspect. Others are already high experienced web users, because they already use the Web since its appearance in early 1990’s. It is clear that elderly represents a widely varied demographic. Here are things we should do to make websites more appropriate for them:
- Make it obvious what needs to be clicked and what is not: We should clearly distinguish between link styles, heading and paragraph. We could use underlines with contrast colors to identify links. Many recent website simply use different colors for links within texts, without underlines. Buttons should also be made larger and more prominent, so they become obvious call to actions. We may also use 3D effects for buttons and other clickable elements, so they will stand out. In addition, the cursor can change into a “hand” when it hovers on a clickable area.
- Replace drop-down menus with checkboxes: For elderly, drop down menus can be confusing and fiddly. They may have reduced eye-hand coordination and it is more likely to select an item by accident. If we have more than six items, then we should choose radio buttons or checkboxes, instead of drop down menus. This will also allow elderly to have a glance on the available options before choosing.
- Try to stay in one window: If possible, we should stay in one window. If we want to provide useful explanations and tips, it is a good idea to do this on the same page. We should tell users if we want to redirect to a new window or show a pop up. Elderly could become confused if they are suddenly transported to a new page without warning.
- Use shallow information hierarchy: We should understand users’ goals and offer them simplest and shortest path to complete a specific task. We should be consistent with labelling of links and desired content should be accessible in less than four clicks. The path should be very clear without any kind of distraction. We need to be really succinct and it is necessary to minimize options.
- Use sitemap: We should also include a sitemap, so we have a proper overall picture on how the website should be organized. The sitemap should be accessible at common areas of the page. Senior users who are proficient with the technology may actively look for sitemaps to gain a clearer overview of the website.
- Use simple language: We need to keep our language simple and avoid technical jargon whenever possible. Although many elderly are quite knowledgeable in their respective field, it is possible that they don’t know the latest terms and jargons in the online industry.