25 Oct The Next Frontier in Web Design: Age Responsive Design?
Just like everything else in life, your age and phase of life has a big impact on how you use the internet. Think about it in the terms of your last family gathering: While the 5 year old on an iPad is looking for a fun video or game that will keep him entertained while the adults talk, the 25 year old is on her phone sharing a photo of the event on social media, the 50 year old is using her phone as a reference for the drink recipe she brought, and the 70 year old is looking up the answer to a question raised in conversation on his iPad. Each generation uses websites differently, and as such, has a different set of expectations of what constitutes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ website. Advertisers have long been catering to these expectations in the form of online targeted ads, and web designers are already used to creating sites that automatically adapt to the screen the user is accessing them from, so could the future of a more inclusive, universally appealing World Wide Web lie in combining these two common principles to create Age Responsive Design.
We have the Information
We already have the ability to make sites adapt based on screen size, and we already have the data to determine a user’s age based on those ‘cookies’ you get warnings about when you visit a new site. So, why not combine those existing technologies to create universally user-friendly experiences? As we head into 2017, you can expect to see some (larger) websites begin to use this combined information to make subtle changes to accommodate younger or older audiences. And, since the information and technology is already readily available, it shouldn’t be long before these capabilities are available to anyone designing a website.
While ostensibly, you could design a completely different site for each different age group who may happen across your site, most smaller companies and brands would focus on programming in more subtle shifts and changes in design to accommodate a range of users. A few general considerations could include:
- Larger font sizes and spacing for older users
- Brighter, more saturated colors for younger users
- A simplified navigation bar or site map for older users
- Video presentation for younger users, text information for older users.
Why it Works….or ‘Goodbye ‘Perfect User’!‘
Good websites are already designed with the end-user in mind, and generally, it is assumed that the end-user falls under the definition of a ‘perfect user’. Perfect users are generally assumed to be tech-savvy digital natives with a pre-existing understanding of generic website functionality – meaning that when they open a new website, they know what it’s going to do and have a general idea of where they need to go to find what they’re looking for. To put it bluntly, the perfect user is a Millennial, maybe a Gen-Xer. But, web use isn’t restricted to those born between 1970 and 1995, and if you find yourself on either side of that age bracket, it’s easy to feel confused and frustrated by the ‘intuitive’ function of a website. Age Responsive Design would allow every user to feel like the perfect user, like the website was designed for them. In turn, this would make websites that much more effective by making it easier for users to find the information they want, and eliminating confusion and frustration.
Avoiding Wasted Effort
One of the most interesting aspects of Age Responsive Design is that it is as customizable as the sites created with it. While big international brands with a wide customer base may need to create sites for each age range, most smaller companies won’t. If you’re marketing luxury second homes, it’s likely you’ll only need to focus on sites that adapt to Gen-X and Boomer needs. On the same hand, if you’re marketing flexible workspace, you probably only need to worry about appealing to Millennials, Gen-X and Young Boomers, not those in retirement or grade school. Just like any marketing vehicle in the technology age, careful attention to Age Responsive Design will allow you to hyper-target, and reach your audience where they are.
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