- Know what you want.
Pick a designer that has experience designing for a mature audience. Visit other web sites targeted to the same demographic, and make notes of what you like and don't like. Then share those thoughts with your designer.
- Know your reader.
Most mature people experience a decline in vision, due to a reduction in the amount of light that reaches the retina, a loss of contrast sensitivity, and a loss of ability to detect fine details.
Certain cognitive abilities are also compromised as the body ages, such as comprehending text and remembering new information. Mature viewers also process information more slowly than their younger counterparts.
Keeping your site content readable, well-spaced, and uncluttered will go a long way in dealing with all of these challenges.
- Present the content clearly.
- Choose a crisp, clear typeface. Use a sans serif font, such as Helvetica or Arial, or a standard serif font, such as Times New Roman. Keep away from condensed, complicated serif, or decorative typefaces in general, as they can be difficult to read.
- Size matters. Use a 12 point font at a minimum, and consider stepping up to 14 point, especially if your primary audience is over 50. Otherwise, provide a way for visitors to enlarge the type themselves.
- Avoid plain type. Use medium to bold type to really speak your message.
- Keep it simple. Leave the underlining for links, limit the use of all capital letters and italics to headlines, and utilize upper and lowercase letters to deliver your content.
- Double-space your subject matter, as single spacing is often difficult for even the best eyes to read. As a matter of fact, for people with failing vision, spacing between lines of text should be at least 25 to 30 percent of the point size, as many people with sight problems have difficulty finding the beginning of the next line.
- Left-justify all content, which allows an even left margin, and uneven right margin. This justification is most favorable for aging eyes.
- Keep aging eyes in mind, and carefully consider the use of color and contrast.
- Stay away from patterned backgrounds, as they can irritate the reader and make it difficult to discern the text.
- Contrast is key to readability for an older reader and it's hard to beat black and white. Try to implement different colors only for headlines, borders and accents.
- Avoid using yellow, blue and green together, as they don't provide the clarity or contrast you want your visitors to see.
- Write understandable content.
- Use positive statements and avoid negative or confrontational content that seeks to get a rise out of the reader in an attempt at a call to action.
- Avoid fancy vocabulary and just give it to them straight. At the same time, don't be too casual or conversational, as you want to maintain a professional approach.
- Organize the content into "bites." Keep paragraphs to two or three sentences each, and limit the number of paragraphs to three or four per web site page.
- Employ active voice over passive, to give your content the pizzazz you need to differentiate yourself form your competitors.
- Limit your bells and whistles.
The more you have, the longer the site takes to download. Those downloading minutes are precious, as a reader who has to wait will likely click off and go on to some other site that is easier to download.
- Avoid flash and other gimmicks. Limit pictures and animation to necessary, related images that help convey the written word.
- Avoid flashing buttons and neon banners. The mature viewer perceives these design elements as "shouting" and will quickly click to the next site.
- Keep audio and video segments short, and offer a text alternative for people who have older computers or who simply want to read the message and skip the "presentation."
- If you can't live without an impressive flash site introduction, extend a "skip intro" offer to the viewer.
- Once you get your prospect to the site, keep him there with an easy-to-maneuver format. Keep the navigation simple and clear-cut.
- Use large buttons that don't involve exact mouse movement.
- Stay consistent with a standard page design and site map, and utilize the same icons throughout the site.
- Provide a large clickable button for donations. Label it clearly with "Give Now" or "Donate Here." It should lead to an easy-to-understand page that provides a secure credit card option.
- Allow the viewer to get to any page from any page on the site, including the ability to return to the home page at any time. Use "previous" and "next" page functionality for easier site maneuvering.
- Avoid drop-down menus if possible, as well as automatically scrolling text.
- Provide a way to subscribe to your newsletter by email. Yes, we should all understand RSS by now, but getting information by email is easy and familiar to older people. They happen to use email quite a lot.
- Offer an email and phone option for any questions, comments or problems.
As with any communications endeavor for your organization, you can't put too much emphasis on delivering a well-crafted message that truly speaks to your target audience.