Drop us a line at [email protected]

or schedule a call and share your story with us


A guide to interface design for older adults

A guide to interface design for older adults

With aging (after 65 years old), all people encounter certain physiological and cognitive changes that are expected. In today’s digital environment – some elderly persons are familiar with the technology and some are novice users, thus these physiological (cognitive) factors must be intercepted. Especially, many older adults are not quite familiar or comfortable with the usage of mobile devices. They need allure to engage and may have quite different usage habits for apps compared to the younger population.

Many future seniors will be familiar with technology, but still – UX designers should consider and overcome these cognitive factors. The product owners should always envision the needs of the end users. In each IT (software) product design we have to focus on the people that will use the product, and we should create an accessible design. In this blog post, we present some of the best UX practices that take into consideration the real value of inclusive design interface.

Providing help

Elderly users may be more likely to need website’s help functions when they encounter problems and issues. Therefore, designers should ensure that proper help is provided for the users. Young users may skip the explanatory screens, but older users will probably pay more attention to them, reading all instructions before clicking. It is important to provide contextual tips throughout the app that are displayed the first time a feature is accessed, and are available for future recall – when the user requests them.

When designing websites and apps with elderly users in mind we have to use clear, objective, and friendly language, without being rude or pretentious. Elderly adults who aren’t keen on technology already feel insecure while using it; an arrogant message will only cause further anxiety and may turn them off from using the app for good.

Text readability

The text displayed on the screen must consider the size of fonts used and the screen itself. Unlike IT developers, not every user has a high-diagonal monitor, and for users over the 60-s, tiny texts can be quite bothersome. Companies that target senior users, should use at least 12-point fonts for their UI’s body text. Preferred font types for better on-screen readability could be Sans-serif. All websites and mobile apps should be tested with a screen reader before their online publication.

Some users have the option to control the zoom view in the web browser. However, in case of zooming the page, it may result in problems with other display features. Avoid users having to undertake manual adjustments. Also, you can break information into shorter sections and use blanks so that you are not bothering the user with a bunch of text packed into a small space.

Spacing, contrasting buttons and captions clearly separated from larger paragraphs of text are some of the factors that improve accessibility and user-friendliness of a website for elderly people. Pictured is the responsive website for IPNA, created by Adchitects.

Colors and visual elements

User’s vision is also affected (impaired) with aging. Elderly people usually use reading glasses or choose large font sizes when possible. For example, 60-year-old retinas receive only 40% of the light that young retinas receive, while 80-year-old retinas only receive around 15%. Also – the older people have lower light sensitivity and increased sensitivity to glare. This also causes problems in elderly adults with quick-changing focus and the rapid changes in brightness. As a good practice, color contrast should be increased in websites that will be used by elderly people.

Buttons and icons are other components that should be taken care of for elderly users. To denote clearly their purpose – the icons and buttons should be labeled with text (when possible). Many elderly users are tech savvy just as the younger generations, but still there are others who are not. Thus, ensuring that all UI controls are understood correctly is very important. Users who don’t need the text labels won’t complain, but those who need them might get confused if labels are missing.

Interaction elements

The user experience is highly dependent on the visual cues and interaction elements. Each component in the interface should be easy to understand and complete. This is especially needed for elderly users, due to their declined motor skills, which make the complex gestures more challenging.

The mouse is a certain problem for users with decreased motor skills, since it can be tricky to navigate between UI elements, click on interface targets, and respond to on-screen pop-up messages. To handle this problem, we must ensure that clickable UI elements are big enough (larger than 10 mm in diagonal) with distance from each other (at least 2 mm) according to experts. We could also try keeping mouse clicks down to a minimum and where necessary, only single mouse clicks.

The scrollbar also causes accessibility problems for users with motor skill impairment. It can be difficult to hold on the tiny scrollbar and to perform the scrolling action. Also, for users who have hard reading, scrolling can hinder their experience, because they should constantly restore their position in the text after it moves. Scrollbars should be kept simple – both in their look and feel. As a good approach, scrolling should be avoided wherever possible.

Touchscreen gestures for elderly users should be simple to perform. Multitouch actions should be avoided; simple horizontal, vertical, or diagonal movement are OK, since they are natural motions. Gestures with quick movements, difficult positioning, or multiple gestures that require multiple fingers – should be avoided. All of these can be frustrating even to experienced older users, as motor functions decline.

Accessible UI is key also on mobile devices. Large buttons, easily noticeable captions and titles, as well as plain-colored backgrounds ensure greater usability for people with some forms of visual impairment, including those of older age. Pictured is the mobile version of The Explorers Club website that we've created.

Easy to learn

All users that perform tasks within a UI, should be able to get from point A (start point) to point B (task completion) – as quickly and easily as possible. This is why smooth UI navigation is so important. When considering senior citizens, the UI navigation system should be even more straightforward and intuitive. The pace at which elderly users process information slows with age. They can complete the given tasks, but it may take them a bit longer than it did when they were younger. Because of this, elderly users need a bit more time to perceive the information that is displayed with and undertake corresponding action.

Standard icons and navigation patterns should always be favored, such as the top horizontal bar that displays all options at once, or cards-like navigation that guides users to specific locations with few clicks needed. That will help users to accustom to things location and how they should use different items on your website. Do not hide important information. Make Tabs to guide the users towards relevant sections of the website. Also, do not include links that are not 100% necessary. This will provide more comfortable usage, and reassure users to click on links that take them to significant locations within your site or app.

How Adchitects envisions UX for the elderly?

Since the global population is aging – the UX designers must apply usability patterns for elderly users, and adjust them in terms of intuitive interface controls, large fonts, clear text, and useful tips for description. This will also improve the overall user experience. Elderly users don’t need a lot of treats to feel comfortable using an application. The best UX practices and usability patterns, should encounter a lot of improvements to make products accessible to all users, no matter the cognitive impairments (age-related, or otherwise).

At Adchitects, we offer simple and effective digital products that consider all ages – their needs and abilities.

The focus of our expertise is diverse: e-commerce portals, fintech, retail, etc. Adchitects UX team performs user testing within a prototyping tool, so that we can demonstrate our user interface design in real time. This gives us more immediate feedback on why or how to fix a problem with the user design interface, i.e. we respect the principle of qualitative user testing. We guarantee that your website will be usable for all ages, and we’ll advise you for the other aspects of your UI look-and-feel.

Feel free to contact us for a quick demo on how to improve your web presence.

Szymon Grabowski

UX/UI Designer & Design Team Leader

got any questions?

Ask our expert

We’re here not only to share our insights and knowledge, but also to help you with anything and answer all of your questions.

Send a message


Let's build or improve your digital product

Contact Us

Too early to take the first step?

Learn more About Us

We use cookies to deliver services in accordance with the Privacy Policy. You can specify the conditions for storage or access to cookies in your browser or the configuration of the service.

Just great!Read more