CIOs Start To Redesign Their Web Sites To Meet The Needs Of Older Customers

CIOs are responsible for making their websites usable by all
CIOs are responsible for making their websites usable by all
Image Credit: Camilo Rueda López

As the person with the CIO job, you have a lot on your plate. You are the one who is responsible for securing the companies network, you have to roll out new servers and storage, and you have to worry about getting everyone to reset their passwords every 90 days. However, it turns out that you are also responsible for something else that you may not be aware of: the usability of your company’s web site. Sure we all take a look at the website to make sure that it’s running ok. However, it turns out that you need to take a look at it through the eyes of an older visitor.

Why Websites Have To Support Older Visitors

So what are the issues that a corporate website can have that will cause problems for older visitors? Things like text that is difficult to see clearly, small buttons that are hard to select and content hidden behind confusing icons are just some of the issues. Items like this are just some of the reasons why many older adults with deteriorating vision and dexterity say they struggle to navigate the internet, an issue that has come into sharper focus recently as the pandemic forced more people to take care of business online than ever before. This was an issue, of course, 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 they are making could soon be embraced more broadly, as the senior population and their buying power grows.

The person with the CIO job understands that the economy is shifting. CIOs now believe that companies need to become increasingly attuned to the needs of the baby-boom population when designing apps and websites. A U.K. 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 leave 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 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 the ones who were less likely to use the internet at all, the study found. One company has been gradually redesigning its website to better serve the needs of users 50 and older. Research from the comapany’s 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 CIO has streamlined their navigation, simplified nomenclature with user-friendly terminology and increased sizes of buttons for ease of use.

Changing Websites To Meet The Needs Of Older Visitors

So how can a company’s website be updated to meet the unique needs of older visitors? Any fields where users need to input text can be made white, so they’re clear and easy to see, and important text can be made bigger. Text size that is smaller than 12 points is often difficult for those with imperfect vision to read. People in the CIO position should realize that sans serif fonts are preferable to serif type 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. CIOs need to understand that the end user needs to be able to resize, recolor and change the font based on their own individual needs.

What every CIO needs to understand is that the biggest help for those struggling to read information up close is contrast. Things like the yellow and black used in international airport signage works well as a high-contrast text and background color pairing. One approach to a corporate web site is to opt for a pared-down website that gives priority to clear signposting of information. Instead of hiding section links in a drop-down menu, a site can display all of its navigation options on a sidebar. CIOs need to think about being logical. When designing websites for older visitors, consistency is important.

A good questions is why haven’t more CIOs changed their websites to accommodate seniors, given the size and buying power of the audience? It turns out that the problem isn’t the complexity of the design. Instead, it is the complexity of the audience and their multiple needs. Many designers know they need to accommodate users with extreme forms of disability. What they don’t often consider is the experience of those living with several mild but limiting impairments. This can include such things as the subtle, multipronged deterioration of things like near vision and dexterity that often comes with age. Accessibility laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act, and organized accessibility campaigns similarly concentrate on the needs of people with severe disabilities such as blindness, rather than multiple minor impairments, such as those older people have. Older people often don’t have the technical language needed to formally complain about their issues online.

What All Of This Means For You

Everyday CIOs have a lot of different things that they have to worry about. Although the corporate website is one of the areas that the CIO is responsible for, they may not spend a lot of time thinking about it as long as it is up and running. It turns out that perhaps they should be thinking about their web site. Older users who come to the website may have difficulty using it and because of that they may not turn into customers. CIOs are responsible for making sure that the corporate website is useable by older visitors.

A corporate website can have a number of different things that can make it hard for an older visitor to use it. These things include text that is difficult to see clearly, small buttons that are hard to select and content hidden behind confusing icons. Older users find technology hard to use and many say that going online frustrates them. If it is hard to use a company’s website, then senior visitors will just walk away. This is an issue for firms because this group of users has a lot of money to spend. CIOs need to update their websites to make them more older user friendly. This means updating the text size, contrast, and field colors. CIOs need to understand that older website visitors have a wide variety of different issues that may make using the website difficult. Laws are in place to help people who have severe disabilities, not necessarily older users. The primary responsibility of a CIO is to find ways to use the importance of information technology to help their company be more successful. The company’s website is a key communication tool that the company uses to connect with their potential customers. As those potential customers become older, the website needs to evolve with them and become more older user friendly. This is a project that the CIO will be responsible for making happen. What needs to be done is very clear, now CIOs just need to make sure that it actually happens.

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

Question For You: What’s the best way for a CIO to test to see if their website can be easily used by older visitors?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What all CIOs are looking for is magic. Not a lot of it, just enough that they can keep things flowing in the right direction in their department. Sadly, most of us don’t know where to find the magic that we are looking for. However, it turns out that it may have been hiding under our noses all along. The power of conversation, not a big formal meeting, but rather a chat just might be the thing that CIOs need to provide their workers with the understanding of what is going on and the motivation to keep pushing forward.