CIOs Start To Prepare Their Websites For Use By Older Customers

The usability of a company's website is the responsibility of the CIO
The usability of a company’s website is the responsibility of the CIO
Image Credit: KimSanDiego

One of the responsibilities of the person with the CIO job is to make sure that the face that the company presents to the outside world is one that everyone can interact with. More and more these days, it’s the company’s online presence that is how current and potential customers first come into contact with a company. What this means is that it has become a CIOs responsibility to make sure that the company’s websites can be used by everyone. This includes older visitors who have their own unique set of usability issues.

Making A Company’s Website Usable By Older Customers

So what parts of a website could cause problems for older visitors? Things like text that is difficult to see clearly, small buttons that are hard to select, and key content hidden behind confusing icons. These are just some of the reasons why many older adults with deteriorating vision and dexterity say they struggle to navigate a company’s website, an issue that has come into sharper focus recently as the pandemic forces more and more people to take care of business online than ever before. CIOs who understand the importance of information technology know that this is an issue that they need to solve.

The person in the CIO position realized this well before the pandemic, and some CIOs had already started to redesign their websites to better serve seniors. While most of these CIOs provide products and services that cater to older adults, some consultants and designers say the changes that they are making could soon be embraced more broadly, as the senior population – and its buying power – grows. CIOs need to understand that the economy is shifting. We need to realize that companies will become increasingly attuned to the needs of the baby-boom population when designing apps and websites. A recent study found that 58% of people age 65 and over say they have increased their use of technology over the past six months, but only 42% of the same group say they find technology straightforward to use and 13% say they find going online a frustrating experience.

Seniors will quickly abandon a company website that is inaccessible to them, which in a pandemic-driven time of online services and commerce equates to abandoning the company. A 2017 study found only 26% of internet users ages 65 and over were “very confident” when using computers, smartphones or other electronic devices. Older people who reported health problems, disabilities or handicaps were less likely to use the internet at all, the report found.

How To Configure A Website For Older Users

An example of a company that has been gradually redesigning its website to better serve the needs of users 50 and older shows the types of changes that CIOs need to be making. Research from focus groups found older people like it best when they complete a task on the site in three steps or less. As a result, the firm has streamlined its navigation, simplified nomenclature with user-friendly terminology and increased sizes of buttons for ease of use. The website has been adjusted visually, too. Any fields where users need to input text are white, so they’re clear and easy to see, and important text has been made bigger.

Text size that is smaller than 12 points is difficult for those with imperfect vision to read. When picking fonts to use, remember that sans serif fonts are preferable to serif type, too because the small strokes added to the end of a serif letter or symbol can “break up” in the eyes of someone with deteriorating eyesight. Websites should make sure not to lock things down or place text on the page as an image file. If at all possible, the end user needs to be able to resize, recolor and change the font based on their own individual needs.

What CIOs need to realize is that arguably the biggest help for those struggling to read information up close is contrast. Examples of this are the yellow and black colors used in international airport signage which works well as a high-contrast text and background color pairing. When you are designing a web site to be used by users who are over 50, you should use bright, bold colors. CIOs should make sure that their websites are designed for easy navigation: Menu items should be displayed clearly at the top of the home page, and your site should require no more than a few scrolls to reach the bottom.

What All Of This Means For You

The world in which we live is changing. What this means for CIOs is that our customers as a whole are becoming older. Along with old age comes a host of physical issues that make doing things like reading computer screens that much more difficult. What this means for CIOs is that the face of the company, its websites, need to be redesigned to make them easier for older users to access.

In order to make this happen, CIOs need to understand that older adults with deteriorating vision and dexterity may start to struggle to navigate a company’s web site. What’s starting to happen is that older customers are increasing their use of technology. However, more and more of them are starting to report that technology is difficult for them to use. Older and sicker customers struggle with using the internet even more than other customers do. CIOs need to take steps to streamline navigation. Company websites should be built with easy to read fonts. Users of a web site should be able to reconfigure things in order to make it easier for them to use it. When designing a web site for use by older customers, contrast is one of the most important things to take into consideration.

Every firm wants to make sure that they can serve all of their customers. This especially includes their customers who may be becoming older. The company’s website has become an important way that companies interact with customers and since the CIO is in charge of the website, we are also in charge of making sure that our older customers are able to easily interact with it. If we understand the design decisions that need to go into this, then we can make sure that everyone will be able to easily interact with our online presence. If we get this right, then we’ll be able to keep our customers even as they grow older.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Should CIOs create focus groups to test how easy their website is to use?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – companies are under more pressure than ever to do more and provide their customers with a better shopping experience. There are only so many ways that this kind of increased level of service can be provided and hiring more workers, while one solution, often turns out to be too expensive for most companies. This means that they have to go looking for a better solution. This is when the CIO is provided with an opportunity use their understanding of the importance of information technology to step in and determine if there are specific jobs within the company that perhaps could be performed by robots in order to help the company boost customer satisfaction while lowering labor costs.