National Network of Libraries of Medicine
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MIDDLE ATLANTIC REGION

Making Your Website Senior-Friendly

Questions? Contact:

MAR staff

NNLM
Middle Atlantic Region

(412) 648-2065
nnlmmar@pitt.edu


Key Tips

  1. Break information into short sections.
  2. Give instructions clearly and number each step.
  3. Minimize the use of jargon and technical terms.
  4. Use single mouse clicks.
  5. Allow additional space around clickable targets.
  6. Use 12- or 14-point type size, and make it easy for users to enlarge text.
  7. Use high-contrast color combinations, such as black type against a white background.
  8. Provide a speech function to hear text read aloud.
  9. Provide text-only versions of multimedia content.
  10. Minimize scrolling.
  11. Choose a search engine that uses keywords and does not require special characters or knowledge of Boolean terms.

Introduction

This resource Guide offers guidelines that can help you create websites that work well for older adults, the fastest-growing group of internet users. Besides sending and receiving email, older adults search the web for health, financial, and religious or spiritual information. They also use the internet to shop, play games, perform genealogy searches and book travel. As the baby boomers age, the number of older adults using the internet will continue to grow, and web designers will increasingly be called upon to tailor websites to this population.

If you have questions about these guidelines and resources, please contact us!

Disclaimer: the information provided in this resource guide was modified from a handout entitled, "Making Your Website Senior Friendly: Tips from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM)," produced by the National Institute on Aging with contributions from the National Library of Medicine.


The Research

Studies completed by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and other agencies have shown that older age is not in itself a hindrance to computer or internet use. However, older adults’ use of electronic technology may be affected by age-related changes in vision and in cognition – for example, the ability to remember, learn, think, and reason. Cognitive abilities that change with age are likely to affect computer use including working memory, perceptual speed, text comprehension, attentional functioning, and spatial memory. Use of the appropriate typeface, colors, writing style, navigation structure, and accessibility features can make a website easier for older adults to access.

Key: Good web design can help counteract many age-related changes.


Usability Testing

The guidelines included here should make your website easier for older adults to use in the end, however you cannot know for sure how well the site will work for older adults you are trying to serve until you watch and listen to some of them working with the site. Usability testing allows you to see how well your site will work while you are still developing it. In a usability test, you can watch and listen as a few people from your target audience try to do real tasks on the site. Conducting usability testing on your website can help you discover the correct problems early. By watching and listening to people trying out your website, you can also evaluate how accessible it is, whether people think it is friendly and inviting, and whether it has the information they are looking for.

When usability testing:

  • Observe older adults using the website. Watch and listen without training them, helping or hinting.
  • Take notes. Note where people have problems, ask questions, or get lost.
  • Test throughout the design and development process. Start at the beginning when you may only have a paper prototype or just a few pages ready. Don't wait until it's all finished and too late to make changes.
  • Use what you learn. Revise the site and then test it again.