Marketing to Seniors: 4 Complaints About Websites

July 6, 2021


It is no secret that older adults are among the fastest growing group on the Internet. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 67% of adults 65+ are using the web for email, health information, news, shopping and more. Even among adults, 80+, a surprising 44% are Internet users!

Despite a growing focus on website accessibility, a surprising number of websites neglect to take into account the aging eyes, ears, hands and minds of older visitors when it comes to website design and usability. And that is hurting user experience. In fact, seven in ten websites contain “accessibility blocks” that render them either extremely difficult or impossible for millions of seniors to use. To this end, British marketing strategist, Dick Stroud, has identified four major – and somewhat interrelated – complaints older Internet users have about websites:

Complaint #1: Unable to Find What They Want

Like it or not, research shows that the ability to perform some mental operations decreases with age. These operations include the ability to simultaneously remember and process new information, to perform complex cognitive tasks, and to comprehend extensive text.

Although these cognitive changes are usually not dramatic, their presence can interfere with a senior’s ability to extract wanted information from websites easily. Consequently, it is essential your website is designed so visitors can navigate it intuitively – organized to be simple and straightforward, with explicit step-by-step navigation procedures. Pages should be organized in a consistent format, with the same symbols and icons throughout.

Complaint #2: Difficulty Reading the Text

Because vision tends to decline with age, seniors generally find it more difficult to read text – especially on a computer screen or smartphone. To ensure readability of website text:

  • Use larger type sizes – at least 12-14 point size.
  • Stick with common typefaces – seniors find heavier or bolder typefaces are more readable.
  • Provide an option on the website for users to increase the font size to meet their own individual needs.
  • Avoid reverse type.
  • Do not print text over patterned backgrounds.

Where the website has video content, consider providing captions or subtitles of the audio. Visitors with hearing impairments who watch those videos will appreciate it, not to mention this can deliver SEO benefits as well.

Complaint #3: Messaging Is Unclear and/or Confusing

If you want seniors to be fully engaged on your website, present content in a clear and familiar way to reduce the number of inferences that must be made. Format the text in “bite-sized chunks,” using simple, concise language that is easy for the reader to digest. And limit the number of points made on each page. If you must use technical terms, provide some sort of easy-to-find online glossary the visitor can use to define those terms.

Because we are much more familiar with the information we are presenting online than are our prospects, we tend to use terms and phrases that those prospects may not understand – even when we are making a concerted effort to parse those terms and phrases! It is a good practice to test content with some seniors before you go live with your website, rather than assume that they will understand it.

Complaint #4: Unable to Navigate and Operate the Website

Many older adults experience physical limitations – like slower response speed, impaired motor coordination and dexterity, or arthritis (which can cause difficulty with hand and wrist functions). These limitations can inhibit a senior’s ability to manipulate a mouse. Consider how you can make your website easier to physically navigate, such as:

  • Allowing navigation via directional arrow keys on the keyboard.
  • Making all links obvious by using differentiating colors and/or backgrounds to create clear visual contrast between the site navigation and the content areas of the screen.
  • Providing larger buttons that react to single mouse clicks (as opposed to double-clicks) to access the information.
  • Avoiding drop-down pages that may require mouse precision that some older users may no longer have.

According to Dick Stroud, focusing on these four issues alone will get you 80% of the way to a truly senior-friendly website.