Designing Your Online Business to Attract Aging Customers - dummies

Designing Your Online Business to Attract Aging Customers

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

Typically, website design trends apply across the board. By making a few conscientious decisions, however, you can improve your site’s appeal to this aging demographic.

For instance, you see sites adopting a very specific (and similar) look and structure, prompted by the need to be mobile-friendly. Even within these mobile responsive design templates, there’s room for customization, and sometimes you need to make design decisions based on your target customer. That’s the case with an older baby boomer customer.

Background and colors

Research shows that your site for the more mature customer is better served by sticking to some standard color rules:

  • A white background color works best. White is simple and crisp, and it makes text easy to read.
  • Certain elements need color. Captions, headlines, and ads can use color — use brighter, bolder selections.
  • Black text reads well. Stick with black text for articles and product descriptions, versus the trendy lighter gray you often see for text today.
  • Minimize your use of blue and green. Avoid using too many blue and green tones, especially from the lighter color palettes.
  • Use only a few colors. Keep the number of color selections to a minimum.
  • Maximize your use of contrasting colors. They’re more pleasing to the eye, and they make information on your site pop.

Text and fonts

The prevailing mindset says that if you target older consumers, you have to use huge text on your site. This idea isn’t exactly true. The overall goal is to increase the readability of your site. Follow these tips for better readability:

  • Avoid placing text on top of blocks of color. Use black text on a neutral (preferably white) background.
  • For primary text, such as main content, use a slightly larger font. Try 12 or 14 point.
  • To grab attention in headlines and captions, use a large font. Try 14 or 16 point.
  • Use case wisely. Place captions in ALL CAPS for emphasis, but use lowercase letters for other text.
  • Use leading appropriately. Add extra spacing between lines of text so that your content isn’t cramped.
  • Choose a sans serif font for your text. Arial and Helvetica are good choices.

If you’re hesitant to move away from popular website design trends, you can opt to implement only subtle design tweaks and let your site visitors make adjustments to screen resolutions and font displays on their end.

Links and buttons

Every spot on your website serves a purpose, especially links and buttons. URLs placed on the site serve as links to help visitors move within your website. Buttons also guide people through your site’s structure. You can enhance the functionality of these features, making it easier for boomers to get around, by using these tips:

  • Visually differentiate between links that the user has or hasn’t visited.

    Having a link change color after a user clicks it is a common method to indicate a link that has been clicked.

  • Place a series of links in a bulleted list.
  • Be descriptive when labeling links. Use keywords and specific phrases to describe the link, as opposed to using the phrase Click here.
  • Make the clickable areas of buttons and graphics larger than the button or graphic itself. A consumer should be able to click the mouse on a target area that surrounds the image (as opposed to clicking exactly on the image itself).

Site structure

The key word for organizing your site is intuitive. You want boomers to be able to easily (and instinctively) locate information and products throughout your site. To make your site structure boomer friendly, follow these guidelines:

  • Location, location, location. Keep your most important information or content in the upper-middle areas of each page of your site, especially the home page.
  • Limit scrolling. Not all online shoppers appreciate excessively long web pages.
  • Avoid excessive clicking. Don’t make shoppers click or double-click excessively to navigate through your site.

    Try incorporating expandable menus in your site to show page options. Usually, these submenus appear whenever your mouse cursor moves over a specific button or link. Unlike with drop-down menus, you don’t have to double-click to open expandable menus.

  • Display a directory of topics (shown as a group of links) at the top of your pages. When you group link choices and make them all visible at one time, your visitors can easily move throughout your site.

Many of these design rules for the older market translate to good design for everyone. For the most part, these guidelines come from a lot of research done on boomers. Organizations such as AARP now promote these design tools as recommended standards for this market.