Web design for all: Why brands shouldn’t overlook older demographics

What a difference a year makes. Regardless of age and gender, we all lived at a distance – relying on technology for socialisation, working, shopping and pretty much everything else. In fact, 80% of people agree that using technology has been a vital support to them during lockdowns (UK Consumer Digital Index 2021 ). But, the requirement to use technology for basic tasks was a daunting prospect for anyone not confident in their digital skills.

78% of people agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has escalated the need for digital skills (UK Consumer Digital Index 2021). However, it’s not just on consumers to up their skills: brands need to ensure their websites are consumer-friendly – for anyone who wants, or needs, to use them.

Introducing hybrid living

Recently, Curious partnered with YouGov to explore how people’s relationships with technology are changing and what this might mean for brands. We discovered that a large proportion of consumers plan to continue life, at least partly, remotely, even when all restrictions have been lifted.

This was roughly the figure we suspected: we’ve had almost a year and a half for new technology to work its way into our routines, and it’s done so with remarkable ease. So, it’s not unexpected that many people will continue to integrate it into their lives. Something that did surprise us, however, was how even intention to continue parts of life remotely was split between different age groups.

All the signs were there

In retrospect, perhaps this shouldn’t have come as such a shock. There were indications that internet usage is increasing amongst all age groups – but particularly the over 55s.

The proof:

  • Internet connection in households with one adult aged 65 or over increased to 80% in 2020 (ONS)
  • More than 3/4 of over 65s use the internet at least once a week (ONS)
  • Three times more 70-year-olds registered for online banking in 2020 than the same time the year before (UK Consumer Digital Index 2020)
  • 55% of over 65s use a smartphone, and 59% have a social media profile (Adults Media Use and Attitudes Report OFCOM)

The opportunity is there

There’s a stereotype that older people struggle with technology and while there is some truth in this, these figures suggest we should be giving them more credit – and brands should be paying them more attention.

Take shopping, for example

It seems like online shopping addictions aren’t the preserve of young people after all. We found that a larger proportion of over 55s plan to shop online than 18-24-year-olds (30% vs 38%). And figures from the ONS show that in August 2020 65% of over 65s had shopped online in the preceding 12 months.

And, if that wasn’t enough to convince you:

  • Last year over 65s made up 30% of consumer goods purchased online, up from 20% in 2019 (The Economist)
  • They are also the group that is showing the largest increase in online shopping (ONS)
  • Between 2010 to 2020, the percentage of 55-64 who had shopped online in the last year grew from 58% to 79% (ONS)

What’s more, over 65s are a valuable market to capture. An ONS study found that 6% of them had spent over £1000 online shopping in the previous three months – the same as 16-24-year-olds.

How can brands attract older audiences?

‘Be yourself’ is a rule that people and brands should both live by. You shouldn’t change fundamental things about your brand, or its personality, to attract new customers – not if the changes you make aren’t true to your core brand idea (find yours here).

That said, there are practical things you can do to make it more likely that new customers will become loyal advocates. And, an excellent place to start is with your website.

Our research found that in the last year, a whopping ⅓ of consumers abandoned a purchase journey due to a bad website or app. That’s a lot of business that brands are losing over something that’s easily corrected.

For the over 55 group, having a good website is vital. 95% of those asked believe that it’s important for a company to have a website that’s easy to navigate – more than any other age group.

And, there’s evidence that more older people would shop online if websites were more accessible. One in five older people would be more likely to get online if websites and apps were easier to understand (UK Consumer Digital Index) So, there’s potential for this customer group to expand in the future.

It all comes back to users

Before you can have a website that’s easy to use, you have to understand both who your customers are and how they are going to use it. Consider where they will land, how they’ll move through the website, their needs, goals and frustrations.

However, while digital touchpoints need to be functional and facilitate the audience’s needs, they also need to have a personality. Brand and design must be integrated to create platforms that are tailored to their audience, whilst also providing an authentic brand experience.

When designing for older audiences, you might want to consider:

Fewer steps: This could mean fewer forms or fields to complete, or shortening the journey between your basket and completing a transaction.
More visibility: Transparency around delivery dates and payments will reassure anyone unsure of shopping online.
Aesthetic Choices: Using legible colour palettes and larger typefaces will increase usability

At Curious, we believe great digital design starts with zero assumptions of how a website or app should look for its users. Designing from scratch and embracing the influence of users and brand is crucial and doing so will mean your platform will feel tailored to your users and distinct to your brand.