It’s no big secret — the internet has taken over the world. What does seem to be one of the best kept secrets, however, is just how much it has influenced the lives of Australia’s largest generation, baby boomers.
While they may not be the earliest of adapters to new technology, the last few years have seen baby boomers become the fastest growing online population. In 2012, this generation spent an average of 19 hours, per person, on the internet each week — which is only five hours less than younger generations
What this means for business is quite simple — if your company has products or services that cater to the needs of baby boomers, your website should also cater to their needs. If it doesn’t, your business is missing out on an incredibly valuable opportunity that could have a significant impact on your bottom line. In a period where the economy has taken some serious hits, and consumer buying confidence has followed suit, the opportunity to expand your potential buyer market is one that could make the difference between success and failure.
So how do you start adapting your site so it is suitable for the older market? Our team of digital experts has put together a simple list of considerations that will help you tailor your content and design so baby boomers aren’t just a second thought, but a real priority. If you’re just starting up, ensure both your web design and implementation plan, and your communication strategy work together to integrate channels, so as much of this population as possible can be targeted.
1. Understand your target market
The first thing to know is that baby boomers aren’t necessarily going to use your site the same way that other users will. What this means is that a you may need a separate section of your site that is dedicated to this market and caters to their special requirements. We employ user centred design for all our other audiences and baby boomers should be no exception.
To build a relevant section for seniors, you need to ensure they not only feel represented but that your brand appears credible and trustworthy. Look at the design and layout of the page, and consider using natural images of older Australians interacting with your product or service. Using image-based outbound hyperlinks to trusted brands you are associated with will also lend you some credibility.
Think about navigation and making it as easy as possible for seniors to get to the pages they need. Simplify how your site works and include a FAQ page that answers all relevant questions — from the most basic to the most complex.
Most importantly, if you’re not sure of their needs, ask them. Consumer focus groups will help you better understand the demands and desires of the market so you can cater to them correctly from day one.
2. Make the process clear
Older users may not be as tech-savvy as younger users and may get easily confused. Make your call to action clear and ensure it is easy to act on.
Whether a form, a purchase or a phone call, highlight the call to action using design elements such as colour and size. Include multiple contact options for extended assistance or customer service and try to keep everything that is important visible on all major pages so they don’t have to hunt for what they need.
3. Think about what is intuitive — to them
While those of us who use computers and buy online regularly may intuitively know how to use even considerably complex sites, baby boomers may not. Pay careful attention to providing tools that guide senior users through each step of your process, for example, product search followed by examining product information, keying in purchase information and completing the purchase. Keep language simple, avoid jargon and include prompts that enable uncertain users to enter what they think they need so your site can offer relevant suggestions.
This is where human experience strategy again comes into play and consumer focus groups can provide some great insights so we are not basing intuition on our own perceptions.
4. Capitalise on page real estate
Research shows that 80% of users spend most of their time at the top of the page (above the fold), paying less attention to information they have to scroll to find. Make sure you use this space to highlight key products, and consider placing direct links to your most popular products in clear view, above the fold on your homepage so seniors don’t have to click or scroll to get what they need.
5. Evaluate and evolve
User testing is an invaluable tool if you are really focused on building a site that works. Commission the assistance of users within your target market to test aspects such as navigation, readability, functionality, colours and design so you can evaluate the ‘user-friendliness’ of the site and adapt it if necessary.
Optimising your site for seniors can be a big investment, both in terms of time and input, but if your product or service is relevant to this extensive market, it will be well worth the effort. Many Australian businesses know their offering may be of value to baby boomers, but simply haven’t examined the return they could make from ensuring their website — often their best way of interacting with their target audience — is user-friendly for this group.
For more information about web development and implementation or targeting your site to meet user expectations, please contact Platform on (02) 9911 7788.