Writing for the Silent Generation (Part 2)

If you want to reach the Silent Generation online, it’s going to take more than big buttons and large type fonts. Ask yourself: has your Web site been designed to meet the needs of older users—who might not be as experienced with navigation and who might have visual impairment, for instance?

According to the latest research from Jakob Nielsen, users aged 65 and older are almost 45% slower at using websites than users aged 21–55. Why? The most common culprits are small font size, the use of dropdown menus and other design features that require fine motor skills, memory and superior vision.

Here are some tips from the clear writing world to make your digital content easy to use and easy to understand for the Silent Generation:

  • Keep web pages short to reduce download time on older computers.
  • Use the same set of navigation buttons in the same place on each page. Label each page in the same location with the name of the Web site.
  • Keep navigation simple and yes, make buttons large enough that they do not require precise mouse movements for activation. For the same reason, use pull-down menus sparingly. Have static menus whenever possible.
  • Provide site maps and use techniques such as “bread crumbs” (a list at the top of the page of what page(s) were followed to get to the current page).
  • Choose a plain, clear typeface. Use at least 12-point type for eyes that are middle-aged and older – but 13- or 14-point is even better.
  • Have lots of white space on the page. Leave wide margins and space between paragraphs to avoid crowding text.
  • Use dark print on a light background. It’s easier to read than reverse type — where text is white on a dark background.

Whether you run a business, a government program serving seniors, an agency delivering health information, or you work in a social service agency that supports older users, these practices will contribute greatly to how well you meet their information needs online.

Remember, the Silent Generation is not likely to complain if your web content is not easy to read or easy to understand. They’re more likely to just quietly click away.

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