Is your ecommerce site user-friendly for the aging population?
“Aging population?” you think to yourself. “What do they have to do with my site?”
While you might not think that your ecommerce site has a large target audience aged 65 or older, the reality is that the aging population is growing–and is predicted to increase rapidly starting in 2011 when the first of the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) start turning 65. The Administration of Aging predicts that “the older population in 2030 is projected to be twice as large as their counterparts in 2000, growing from 35 million to 72 million and representing nearly 20 percent of the total U.S. population.”
35 million people in 2000. How much more has that group grown in the past 10 years? And that number is forecasted to double over the next 20 years. What are you doing to make sure that your ecommerce site is accessible to this rapidly growing group of people?
The Administration of Aging deems anyone over the age of 65 to be an older adult. If you question how many true “senior citizens” are actively on the web, I can readily vouch for two: my 79-year old Grandma and 83-year old Great Aunt are both active on the Internet on a daily basis. They email, research, and comparison shop. And they are both a considerable number of years from 65. Aging in Stride documents that 42% of people over 65 use the Internet and that computer use is growing fastest in the “aging adult” demographic. With the Baby Boomers, most of whom have been using computers since they were first introduced in the ’80s, starting to turn 65, this percentage is only going to skyrocket.
Research into what makes a website user friendly for aging populations uncovers the following list from the National Institute on Aging:
- Break information into short sections.
- Give instructions clearly and number each step.
- Minimize the use of jargon and technical terms.
- Use single mouse clicks.
- Allow additional space around clickable targets.
- Use 12- or 14-point type size, and make it easy for users to enlarge text.
- Use high-contrast color combinations, such as black type against a white background.
- Provide a speech function to hear text read aloud.
- Provide text-only versions of multimedia content.
- Minimize scrolling.
- Choose a search engine that uses keywords and doesn’t require special characters or knowledge of Boolean terms.
It seems to me that this list is really a list of good website design tips for all users, regardless of the intended user’s age and that implementing them would improve everyone’s experience with your site. Even the few suggestions that seem to cater to aging eyes, such as providing a speech function to hear text read aloud and the suggestion of using a slightly larger font size, are useful to anyone with impaired vision or anyone with tired eyes from reading tiny font on a screen all day long. Likewise, adding space around clickable targets will benefit those whose fine motor skills are deteriorating with age, but they will also benefit anyone who is trying to navigate using a touchy laptop track pad or clumsy trackball mouse. Using high-contrast color combinations benefits not only aging eyes but anyone who suffers from color-blindness. Other tips like breaking information into small chunks and minimizing scrolling are simply good web design best practices. The rest aren’t tips for making your site senior-citizen-friendly per se; they’re tips for making your site human-friendly.