Designing for a Senior Audience

By , User Experience Director

It’s easy to get comfortable in our designs, to assume that many users are probably a bit like ourselves. Able-bodied, dexterous fingers, with passable eyesight that can see the full spectrum of color. In many cases, the reality is a lot less cut and dry – especially around the corners and at the edges.

The fact is that older users are one of the fastest growing segments of internet and mobile products, so it’s absolutely essential to make your product as friendly as possible to ensure that your hard work designing makes it usable by the greatest amount of people. The Pew Internet and Life Project finished a study in 2012 which shows a remarkable swing in users over 65:

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That’s a dramatic swing in only a single year, and it’s easy to assume that curve has probably steepened in the past two years.

It’s important to remember that there are two main types of senior user groups. One of them has been using computers for a while and is experiencing the gradual decline we all go through during the aging process, and the other has all the accessibility issues from group one, but only started using computers in recent years.

They both have potential sensory and accessibility issues, but the latter is compounded by the problems inherent in being a relative newcomer to technology. Fortunately, some of the tried-and-true interactive design technique best practices, if adhered to, will make sure your product works well for both of these groups. Things like clear, concise language, simple user paths, bold typography that’s high contrast and easy to read… the things you should do for everyone benefit aging users the most.

And before you run off half-cocked and assume that you have no aging users, bear in mind that these issues start affecting people around the age of 35 – which is not considered a senior user by a long shot, but many of them have the same vision problems that plague users 20 years older.

Many of the baby boomers fall into the adept-with-issues category, and that is an enormous slice of the potential user pool. As this segment ages further, accessibility issues become even more critical to address in the early design phase of any project alongside how everything scales to different sizes and what contexts are expected. It’s safe to assume that a growing portion of your user base is going to be older adults, and the sooner you bake them into the design, the better off you’ll be in the long run. You’ll enjoy higher conversion, greater customer retention and above all:  happy users satisfied with your wonderful products and content.