How well do websites targeted at seniors actually fit their audience? According to a recent study published in Usability News, not as well as could be expected.
The study, conducted by Traci A. Hart of Wichita State University, looked at 36 websites that were intended to be accessed by people ages 60 and above to determine how “senior-friendly” the sites were in relationship to guidelines set out by the National Institute of Aging (NIA). The results indicate that even though seniors are often the audience sought, the websites themselves may not provide a very ergonomic fit in terms of ease of use for their visitors.
To test the sites, Hart had four volunteers from the school’s Software Usability Research Lab (SURL), all with practical experience and research knowledge in website design and usability, review the sites. The sites were checked to see how well they complied with everything from the style and voice of the written copy and how the mouse was used within the site, to the appropriateness of the typeface, color, consistency, and spacing.
While all of the sites reviewed were considered senior-compliant in terms of “phrasing” (using the active voice), “scrolling” (avoiding automatically scrolling text plus providing a scrolling icon) and “mouse” (single clicks only), fewer than half of the sites were deemed to be using an appropriate type size (12 or 14 point) or offered a “site map” to show the organizational structure of the site. A mere 2.8 percent of the sites used double-spaced text for readability.
According to Hart, the results of the survey found that most sites complied with the NIA’s basic navigation guidelines but not to the NIA’s text guidelines including text size, weight, spacing, and links graphics. Additionally, Hart’s study found sites including SeniorNet.com, NCOA.org (National Council on the Aging), Medicare.gov, Questonline.org, Elderweb.com, and AARP.org to be some of the most compliant sites tested, while sites including Geriquest.com, Go60.com and Retired.com were found to be some of the least compliant sites viewed in the study.
While 17.2 percent of the web-using population is estimated to be over the age of 55, Hart notes that web designers “often fail to recognize older adults as a potential user group for their technology,” and that the “industry has only recently begun designing software and hardware that make accommodations for the needs of the aging user.” She also notes that while some of the sites may not effectively comply with the NIA guidelines, that lack of adherence may or may not impact the senior user’s satisfaction with and usability of the sites.
Source: Usability News