July 10, 2013
Designing a web experience for "senior citizens" (ugh)
It is time to begin shifting our thinking about people over 65 and the web (Earth to marketers: Pigeon-holing consumers as "senior citizens" will come back to bite you—to many it is a derogatory term).
What got me thinking about the subject is a summary of a Nielsen Norman Group report titled Seniors as Web Users. The tone of which seems to tag most older users as somehow unable to handle changes in color (seniors easily lose track of where they've been), no less navigate a complex user interface.
When nothing could be further from the truth. People now reaching the age of 65 are not a generation of clueless users—many are the folks who imagined the world wide web to begin with, who built the internet, who developed the codeing platforms, and invented the content management systems.
These were the first adopters and, in many cases, know as much or more about how technology works, what's new, and what's trending than many of their younger counterparts. Bill Gates, for example, was born in 1955, Walter S. Mossberg the WSJ technology expert is 66, Rob Enderle the renowned technology analyst is 58. Oracle's Larry Ellison is 68--these are not people we would consider out of touch.) Young or old, there are enthusiastic adopters and reluctant users, it just depends on where your interests lie.
For those reasons, from a marketing standpoint, I think we need to be very careful about treating these users like we would the generation before them—those who, in fairness, did not use computers for a significant number of years before they reached the same age.
My point is the marketing community has long used age as the gold standard for predicting behavior. As we approach a time when most affluent consumers have spent much of their adult life on computers and online, we need to reconsider if categorizing computer users by age is as relevant as it once was.