Believe it or not, the Baby Boomer generation has come to retirement age. And unlike previous generations, they are very active online users. But unfortunately, older users often have certain limitations due to declining health. Visual impairment, mobility problems, and slow adaptation to changes might get in the way of enjoying favorite apps. Senior users deserve respect and the best way to express it is to provide smooth digital experiences for them.
As a design agency, we care about good UX for any generation and user group. In this article, we want to list the biggest challenges and best practices for designing user interfaces accessible to seniors.
How do seniors use the Internet?
Senior citizens are people over the age of 65, who have retired. As the percentage of seniors is only growing among the population, so is their online presence.
The majority of the elder people have access to the Internet and represent a major target audience for many types of apps and products. Here are some products and services that serve the needs of older people the most:
- health care applications (for example, glucose and cholesterol level trackers, pill intake, and doctor appointment reminders)
- online shopping platforms
- goods and food deliveries
- personal finance management tools
- entertainment apps (like an online card or crossword games)
- platforms that help stay connected to other people
It's a common fact that older people may often have limited movement, vision, and cognitive abilities. But they value their independence, love technology, and want to be no less active than the younger generation. And software is something that should help people of all ages stay active, independent, and joyful.
What are the most common challenges in user interfaces for seniors?
Seniors often have specific needs determined by their age and health condition. And sadly, web and mobile interfaces are not always designed with an older audience in mind.
For example, products that seniors often use, like grocery deliveries or health-tracking apps, have too complex UI with many small elements that might confuse older users.
New design patterns and unfamiliar user interfaces may challenge or stress older users that tend to adapt to changes slower and feel more comfortable relying on previous digital experiences.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that over 60 percent of Americans 65 years and older have difficulty with close vision, and another 15 percent struggle with distance vision. This means that a big part of users ages 65 or older struggle to use digital products that use smaller font sizes.
Tips for better UI design for seniors
When designing for seniors, try to make your app more accessible to people over 60 years of age. You can achieve this by making design adjustments to some fundamental elements.
Implement the following design principles for seniors when creating apps for older audience:
- Make sure that a user interface has big and easy-to-see main elements. Place links, buttons, sliders, and such. in a central location on the page so that seniors can read the content easier.
- Use big, legible fonts and semi-modular icons so they can be accessible to people with impaired vision. Best of all, allow people to change their font size within an app. Customizable font sizes make it easier for seniors to adjust the size of the text.
- You can also use bold contrasting colors for checkboxes and lists so seniors can easily see what options are available.
- App design for elderly people can include an interface that automatically changes from color to black and white version in poor lighting conditions, which decreases screen contrast and makes reading and scrolling less tiring.
- Include some white space between items to help scan the page easier. Show items in a series of rows or columns - grids make it easier for seniors to scan content and identify what they want.
Overall, keep your app design clear and simple, and users of any age group will thank you for that.
Examples of senior-friendly UI
This web design for seniors relies on principles of accessible design: visual hierarchy highlights more important content pieces, headlines are in large-sized legible fonts, bullet lists and CTA buttons are separated and well-distinguished with color. The structure of the website is simple and familiar to users, yet the user experience is still engaging.
There are many dating apps on the market. But here’s an example of a product for seniors. Pay attention to the simplicity of the app and space around design elements that make the user experience easy and pleasant. Buttons under profiles are visible and the solution with icons works here better than plain text.
Many seniors use grocery delivery services, but not every delivery app provides accessible UX design for the elderly. In the Instacart app, goods are presented as pictures which helps to manage the virtual cart easier. The horizontal grid structure and navigation arrows resemble the supermarket shelves and make the whole shopping experience more intuitive.
Senior citizens value their independence, and personal finance management applications are a helpful tool for such matter. Mint is a budget and expenses tracker that offers a neat UI with clear visual hierarchy. Design elements on the page are well-structured, while important messages are highlighted in bold which helps to focus the attention on important things first. Data is visualized in simple diagrams. All these features make the app extremely senior-friendly.
Digital card games are popular among seniors. Such games are relaxing and entertaining, but at the same time keep your mind sharp. The UI of this simple solitaire card game is well-designed and keeps older people's needs in mind. Just by looking at essential distinct buttons on the top of the page and large icons of the playing cards you can tell that this design is accessible for older adults.
Sixty and Me
To sum up
Seniors are a growing market and they are tech-savvier than you might think. This large segment of our population is looking for ways to connect with family, friends, and people of their age. Just like teens and their parents, older adults want apps to help them exercise, track their health, shop, entertain, and more.
To create a great UX for seniors, pay attention to your target audience’s needs and capabilities. Just like with UX for any target group, the UX for the elderly should be logical and easy to navigate, while design principles for seniors should take the basics of accessible design into account.
To better understand how to design a product for different user groups, older users in particular, and make it truly user-oriented, feel free to read our article about accessibility in the UX or drop us a line to discuss how we can help you design or redesign your product to make it senior-friendly.