Want to build a large, loyal audience for your Web site? Most retailers focus their efforts on the 18-to-34 age group. But why not go where the real money is instead? People over age 50 account for half of all discretionary spending in the United States, yet they're the focus of only 10% of all advertising. They're going online and they have money to spend.
Think Big For Older Users
If you're putting together a site primarily intended to appeal to seniors, think BIG:
This may sound like a lot of trouble, but consider the potential. People over age 50 represent the smallest percentage of adults online, but they're the fastest growing demographic group on the Internet. The numbers of seniors online will increase as the population ages.
No Installation Required
Inexperienced users aren't adventurous when they first get online so avoid cutting-edge designs that require special software or plug-ins. They may not understand how to download and install software - or they may be afraid to. All Internet users worry about downloading viruses, spyware, and other types of malicious software.
Even if they trust you, most users don't want to install something special just for your page. They certainly aren't likely to download a whole new browser or updated version, so make sure your page works and looks good on all major browsers.
Use Browser Photo to quickly test your pages in all major browsers - including AOL and WebTV. Find problems before visitors do. Beginning users have probably never heard of browser compatibility problems; they may not even realize there is more than one type of Web browser. They'll just blame you for display problems, leave the site, and not bother to return.
Clearly Explain Everything
Friendly design techniques aren't enough. Many seniors find the Web hard to use because they aren't as familiar with computer and Internet technologies as younger adults and teens.
Even basic computer and Internet terminology can cause problems.
What's the difference between a Web site, a Web page, and a homepage? What is a URL or Web address? Carefully explain terms and avoid computer jargon. Older visitors tend to lack confidence in their computer skills, so unfamiliar language makes them nervous.
Create a user-friendly environment so that less experienced visitors aren't intimidated. They're more likely to return to your site often and become regular customers.
Web Accessibility Counts
While you're thinking big in your page layout, consider the size of your target market. According to the 2000 United States Census, senior Americans are the fastest growing age group whose total population should increase 56% in the next 20 years.
They're also a group considerably more likely to appreciate the steps you take to increase your site's accessibility. Many Web designers never consider that design techniques that increase a site's usability for older visitors really help all visitors use the site. When you make the effort to create a site that appeals to older visitors, you're helping to raise the quality of the entire Web.
Some day (maybe even now!), you too will be an "older user". Wouldn't it be nice to know that you'll still be able to access and enjoy your favorite sites?
Learn more about how to make your site accessible to all visitors at our Accessibility Resource Center. It contains links to accessibility articles, an accessibility dictionary, and links to other online accessibility resources.