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Online retail accessibility: Covid-19 and new website demographics

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Coronavirus continues to change the way we live our lives, forcing some demographics out of their comfort zone, replacing certain habits (in particular, shopping habits) with new experiences.  According to a recent IMRG webinar, online retailers are now seeing more engagement from older demographics who had previously not been their focus. This comes about as advice on cocooning comes into play and extra measures are taken to ensure the safety of more vulnerable age groups. 

Many supermarkets and grocery providers are asking that younger, healthier generations reserve online shopping for older generations who are unable to get to the shops but, as millennials are the primary online consumers, is this straight swap in behaviour possible for older demographics who may not be accustomed to doing so?

Alone and Age Action, who are support groups for older people recently reported that they have had a significant increase in calls during the pandemic from elderly people who are not confident enough to do their food shop online and who need assistance. A troubling thought for those with older relatives that now require that dependence from younger generations.

However, the pandemic is not the first call for concern in terms of online usability for older age groups. It’s not as if people change all their behaviors once they approach their 65th birthday – Baby boomers and Generation X are continuing to grow older, and it is expected that the number of users over the age of sixty will more than double by 2050. According to Neilsen, The human-aging process starts when you turn 20 with people in their 40s already have sufficiently reduced eyesight to require somewhat larger font sizes than eagle-eyed designers in their 20s.

The same study has also shown that the success rate among senior web users is 55.3% compared to 74.5% among a younger demographic. The time spent on tasks was also approximately 2.5 mins slower than younger users. Therefore eCommerce websites should look at how they can improve their User Experience for older generations.

UX for Older Generations

As mentioned, there are some motor functions that tend to change with age i.e. eyesight, muscle movement, coordination and hearing. But also, older generations might not be subjected to certain new-found vocabulary or recent online functions, so it’s important to bear in mind that clarity and education will also assist greatly. Issues such as these have been known to create characteristics in the elderly such as a lack of confidence online and a likelihood to read all the information they are presented with.

So what are the best practices to gratify those who have a different set of physiological and cognitive needs? A good idea is to look at websites that are typically used by older generations, for example, retirement or nursing home websites or lifestyle websites aimed at this age group. You’ll typically find that they address all the key areas that may cause difficulty for the older generation – However, we’ve also comprised some of the key areas below that may help you adjust quickly during the pandemic:

Language 

With a lack of confidence, comes a desire to read the fine print. Cut down on unnecessary fluff and present only the important info in the simplest of terms. Remember, some language might be unfamiliar to this demographic, so it may be helpful to install a mechanism to explain words that can’t be simplified further. I.e. hovering the mouse over certain words for an explanation.

Memory Driven Patterns

‘Breadcrumb’ style navigation can  support users with poorer short term memory – especially if you have a large site with numerous categories of stock. This offers users a way to trace the path back to their original landing point.

Clickabilty

Focus on improving areas that require precision, such as mouse clicks and scrolling. Ensure users have the ability to choose between scrolling from the mouse, keyboard, and make manual scrolling large enough to control with ease. 

Error Messages

Error messages can create cause for concern even among savvy users. Where these gaps occur in your site, ensure that the error message is clear and should offer a transparent course of action. Take 404 errors for example – older users may not know what a 404 error is or what they should do when they see one. It’s your responsibility to ensure they can successfully move on from this page but not away from your site. 

Pop ups and Data Collection

Reduce the frequency of pop-ups on your website and ensure they can be minimised with ease. According to a recent study, any moving, blinking, or scrolling information that starts automatically or lasts more than five seconds, should be easily hidden by the user unless the message involved is absolutely essential. This will reduce the chance of frustration and abandonment. 

Conclusion

As Coronavirus moves more people online and diversifies audiences, now is the time to assess the accessibility of your eCommerce site. The chances are that the people who are making decisions about your online presence are not from the 65+ demographic, so continue to test your website and broaden your range. Taking action as a result of feedback will produce websites that are more accessible and cater better to your audiences. This, in turn, will lead to better customer experience, returning customers and increased sales. 

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