Ageing is an inescapable part of life. According to the , 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or over by 2030. And given how ingrained technology is in our lives today, there is no doubt that these individuals will be active users of digital products. However, their usage patterns would have changed drastically due to issues that come with old age. Issues similar to the one children face – difficulty tracking time, learning and applying new things, to name a few. And these are the things we need to consider while designing for the elderly.
The user experience that was optimal for them while they were younger might no longer continue to be so as they grow older. You would have to design for accessibility to make their user journey and interaction more streamlined, and time-saving.
But, what if you don’t?
You would be missing out on the opportunity to capitalise on an underserved market segment with growth potential. Plus, how can you expect to become a market leader when your product fails to serve a sizeable chunk of users in your target market?
Now that you know the importance of inclusive UX, you might wonder how would one go about it.
To understand that, we need to answer a few questions.
- What is the use of technology for older individuals?
- When using digital products, what constraints do they face?
- How can we improve their experience?
Use of technology in elderly life
Irrespective of our age, we are surrounded by digital devices. There is no debate that they have eased our lives a lot. From booking flight tickets to checking your vitals, you can do everything from the comfort of your home.
As a result, even the elderly are attempting to learn new age tech. And although older, their purpose for using digital devices isn’t much different from their younger counterparts.
Don’t believe us?
Some studies by Pew Research show the increasing technology adoption by older individuals.
They primarily rely on digital devices for the following use cases:
- Checking their vitals – heart rate, oxygen level, sugar level – keeping a track of their doctor’s appointments, medication etc.
- Using eCommerce platforms and food delivery apps for getting their necessities delivered.
- Online banking and budget management for easy bookkeeping
- Recreational purposes like playing crosswords, puzzles or watching movies, dramas etc.
- And lastly, although not very popular, some older individuals also like to keep in touch with friends and family through social platforms.
Now that we have the answer to the first question, let’s move on to the second one.
What constraints do the elderly face?
The use cases of older individuals aren’t very different from younger users. But their usage patterns are.
Due to mental and physical issues arising out of old age, users have a tough time using regular interfaces. This is because they are distracting and fast-paced for them.
- The time taken for most senior users to learn new software is longer
- They might require more time than tech-savvy users to complete any task
- Owing to cognitive roadblocks that come with old age, their performance ability is limited
- Due to decreased cognitive function, they have a hard time focusing on things
- Anytime they are stuck using an application/website, it takes longer for them to find a solution due to the novelty of the platform.
- Accidental clicks are common in their case because of smaller touch targets in newer designs paired with decreasing motor ability.
Designing for the elderly requires a lot of thought and consideration in design decisions. But it is important for product success.
Go big or go home
Visual capabilities are observed to decline in individuals once they are past 50 years of age. From blurry vision and watery eyes to hyperopia, older individuals have a tough time seeing things.
Thus, when designing, you must make clickable elements easily identifiable. In addition, you also want to make them slightly larger so they are clearly visible and easily clickable.
Balance of contrast in colours
To have a consistent UX design, it is essential to have a defined set of colour guidelines to increase the accessibility of the user experience for any person.
It is common for any person to forget which links they visited while browsing through a website, and the chances of forgetting to amplify in older adults.
Therefore, adding blue colours to interactive links and bold colours for titles will help them keep track of where they have been within a webpage.
Additionally, customizable toolbars should be provided to prevent a bad user experience for anyone with colour blindness or other visual impairment.
Designing for accessibility
Any information on a website must be presented in a way so that anyone can understand it without any difficulty.
While designing for the elderly, one must be extra conscious about the tone and language of the content since many elderly users often face challenges with vision and hearing.
Text-to-speech functionality and subtitles in videos should be available for anyone who has a hard time reading and listening. Furthermore, the focus should be given to phonics, slang and wordplay as well as they can be a challenge for certain users.
Bottom-line is, that the language we use among our peers and social groups can differ from what the senior citizens use to grasp & process information online.
You can also conduct empathy mapping to further bridge the understanding between the designers & the users.
Use simple UI patterns
Digital products usually have a smooth UX design and therefore people use them to complete different tasks. And to complete any task there is a process involved. To enhance the user experience of the digital products, this process needs to be simple and free of distractions, especially when designing for the elderly.
As individuals tend to get older, their short-term attention spans decrease. And they have a hard time remembering what to do next.
Thus focus on creating interfaces that use common, popular navigation patterns and have a low cognitive load. Additionally, you should use as few animations and quick interactions as possible. As many non-interfering tooltips as you can be added as well.
It is 2022, and everyone is on board with the fact that inclusivity and accessibility are important parts of a successful UX design.
If your digital products are not optimised for both, you are missing out on a lot of potential social and economic benefits. Especially, since data has shown the growing technology use amongst the elder population & therefore the topic of designing for the elderly is now trending more than ever.
But, it is never late to do the right thing.
So, if you would like to optimise your digital products to be accessible and usable to all drop us a message and we’ll be happy to help.