Can You Hear, See, Read Me Now?

....making sure your website is older friendly....

It should come as no surprise that older people are using the internet at greater numbers than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center, 75% of us who are 65 and older are regular internet users. That's 3 out of 4, for you English majors. The gap between younger and older users will continue to narrow, as technology becomes more widespread and the younger user actually becomes the older user.

While older and younger groups have more in common than not, there are such realities as age-related changes (in vision, for example) that can affect accessibility. Broadly speaking, suggestions for making your website more user-friendly for older people also apply to the general population. The Institute on Aging and National Library of Medicine have done studies on what makes a website more accessible--here are their findings:

Fonts: use sans serif font (sans serif means the letters don't have the little feet at the bottom- generally a cleaner read). Examples include Tahoma, Verdana, and Arial. Body text should be size 12 or 14. Weight should be medium or bold.

Body text: text should be in upper and lower case; use ALL CAPS and italics in headlines only. Save underlining for links, like this one to Institute on Aging / National Library of Medicine tipsheet. Body text should be double-spaced, and left-justification is recommended. As far as page colors, they suggest not placing yellow, blue, and green in close proximity.

Backgrounds: For ease of reading, use dark type against light background. Avoid patterned or busy backgrounds that interfere with readability.

Content: suggestions include organizing information in a standard format, and using active voice (English majors for the win!).

Technical: suggestions include using easy navigation tools, consistency of style and function, a clear site map, and using text with icons for links. Additional accessibility tools are essential to creating a more inclusive experience for people of all ages and varying abilities. For more on this, see detailed recommendations from the National Center on Deaf-Blindness.

Being attentive to detail is part of what you do every day. Make sure your website reflects your understanding of best practices for greeting your present and future clients online.


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