Our report on designing websites for senior citizens includes the following usability guideline:
"If using web or browser-related terms, consider defining them in place. Avoid using them if they are not necessary."
Why do we say this? Why do older users have more trouble with technical terminology than younger users? Here's what we found in the user research with people aged 65 and older:
Many users today understand standard web-related terms. But, in this study, many seniors were unsure about web terminology, such as page, homepage, website, or the web.
Most seniors started using the web for different reasons and with less help than younger users. About half of the seniors in our second study started using the web for professional reasons at work. Those that did not begin using the web at work didn’t have the training sessions or coworkers in the office helping them to learn new things. In fact, only 25% of the seniors in our second study received formal training on how to use the web; the rest were self-taught. For this reason, they may not be familiar with official web or browser-related terms.
Some of the points and questions seniors made about web-related terms:
“Is this a website or a web page? I don’t know the difference.”
“I don’t know what ‘URL’ means. What is that?”
“I don’t always know exactly what the word ‘web’ means.”
“Is the homepage part of a website?”
Another user couldn’t find an item on a particular page and said, “I don’t think I see it under this site.”
Web terms and technical jargon were especially problematic when seniors were asked to provide information on a form. For example, a site registration form asked for an email address and required users to choose their preferred email format: Text, Pictures & Text (HTML) or I’m not sure. Although it’s nice to at least give users the choice of I’m not sure as a way to skip the question, the question itself confused users. One said, “‘Email Format’, what does that mean? I put ‘I’m not sure’ because I don’t know.” The other user skipped the question altogether, which is what many people do when they are unsure about what a question means. She left the default radio button selected, Pictures & Text (HTML).
In our study, commonly used English web terms were even more difficult for users in Japan to understand. For example, on the Japanese website, e-Phone, users did not know what the word Checkout meant, even though it was translated into Japanese.
Full Research Report: 105 More Design Guidelines
The full report on usability for older users contains 106 design guidelines like the one discussed here. Every time you implement one more of these recommendations on your website, you will get more traffic or business from older users. If you purely design for young people, then don't be surprised if old people go to other sites, because they do have special needs.
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