Online Publishing Strategy: Make Websites More Senior Friendly

U.S. Government Creates Guidelines

If the target market for your email newsletter or membership website is older Americans, you might want to heed this advice on senior-friendly websites from the National Institute on Aging. If fact, you might find these suggestions are worthwhile for any group squinting at the computer screen.

“Plain text, plain type, and plain terms are plainly effective ways to broaden the reach of a website to an older audience,” says the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine.

These two components of the National Institutes of Health offer a free booklet, Making Your Web Site Senior Friendly: A Checklist, to help website designers and online publishers create site for use by older people.

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Website usability tip: Design readable text and navigational features

The checklist is based on results of scholarly research showing that age is no hindrance to computer or Internet use. While normal, gradual, age-associated declines in vision and cognitive abilities may be impediments to the use of electronic technology, the checklist ticks off ways to design readable text and navigational features that can shape up a website for older users.

It also covers suggestions for style and for incorporating popular features like photos, videos, and audio. It wraps up with an extensive list of research references and suggested reading to address in-depth web design issues.

“By implementing this checklist, web designers can help open the Internet to great numbers of people over 60 who want to know more about their health and aging,” says NIA director, Dr. Richard J. Hodes.

“We have found that people age 60 and over now constitute the fastest growing group of computer users,” notes NLM director, Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg.

Single copies of Making Your Web Site Senior Friendly: A Checklist” are available on the Web at

A senior-friendly website usability checklist

The following are courtesy of the National Institutes of Health:

  • Phrasing: The website uses the active voice.
  • Scrolling: The website design avoids automatically scrolling text and provides scrolling icon.
  • Mouse: The website design uses single clicks to access information.
  • Lettering: The website design uses upper and lower case for body text and reserves all capitals for headlines.
  • Justification: The website design uses left justified text.
  • Style: The website design uses positive phrasing and presents info. in a clear manner without the need for inferences.
  • Menus: The website design uses pull down and cascading menus sparingly.
  • Simplicity: The website design uses simple language for text. A glossary is provided for technical terms.
  • Typeface: The website design uses a san serif typeface that is not condensed.
  • Color: The website design avoids using yellow, blue, and green in proximity.
  • Backgrounds: The website design uses light text on dark backgrounds or visa versa and avoids patterns.
  • Consistent Layout: The website design uses standard page design and the navigation is the same on each page.
  • Organization: The website design uses a standard format. Lengthy documents are broken into short sections.
  • Navigation: The website design uses explicit, step-by-step navigation procedures and is simple and straightforward.
  • Help & Information: The website design offers a tutorial on the website or offers contact information.
  • Icons & Buttons: The website design uses large buttons. Text is incorporated with an icon, when possible.
  • Illustrations & Photos: The website design uses text relevant images only.
  • Type Weight: The website design uses medium or bold face type.
  • Type Size: The website design uses 12 or 14 point for body text.
  • Site Maps: The website design uses a site map to show how the site is organized.
  • Hyperlinks: The website design uses icons with text as hyperlinks.
  • Animation, Video & Audio: The website design uses short segments to reduce download time.
  • Back/Forward Navigation: The website design uses buttons such a “previous” and “next” for reviewing text.
  • Physical Spacing: The website design uses double spacing in body text.

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