Creating Senior-Centric Design: Color, Contrast & Sizing


Aug 31, 2016 | Marketing & Branding

When you talk about tech and design, you probably think first about a younger crowd, right? After all, they were the first to adopt technology, mobile usage and the Internet as a virtual way of life, and most of today’s consumers are either digital natives or extremely well versed in the digital realm.

As senior living professionals, though, we have a different crowd to think about: seniors! Despite the stereotype that older individuals don’t use computers or the Internet as much as younger generations, they’re actually one of the fastest-growing demographics in terms of digital adoption.

“Seniors are looking for you online, now more than ever before, and designing your online experience to cater to their unique needs is not just smart, it’s becoming increasingly necessary,” says Dean Kistner, Creative Director at SageAge. “Luckily, technology has evolved to let us create online experiences that work for seniors while also appealing to other demographic groups, so no one has to feel alienated during their online journey to and through your online presence.”

There are a wide range of factors you can consider when designing or optimizing your site to be more friendly for older adult eyes, but let’s focus on three main factors that have a big impact: color, contrast and sizing. But first, let’s look at why designing for an older audience is important.

Why Designing for Seniors Matters

As mentioned, older Americans are hitting the web with increased frequency. How much, exactly? The AARP reports that more than 10 percent of Americans on the web are 64 or older. And, the Boomer population – probably one of your key demographics – is a huge force in the US population, making up more than 30 percent of our country’s adult population and almost 40 percent of the adult online population. They account for about ⅓ of all daily web traffic; that’s huge!

As we age, our vision declines; unfortunately, it’s simply a fact of life for most of us. About 4 million Americans suffer from what’s known as “low vision,” which is vision that lenses, medical treatment and surgery can fix. A huge portion of that 4 million – about 70 percent in fact – are 65 or older.

And, more than half of the country’s population has some sort of vision problem that they use corrective lenses to fix. Nearsightedness is an issue that affects more than a quarter of our population. So, pardon the pun, but it’s pretty clear that designing for eyes that are less than perfect is not just a consideration – it’s basically a requirement if you’re hoping to reach an older audience.

The Scoop on Color, Contrast and Sizing

You can’t really talk about color without including a discussion of contrast, because when it comes to good colors for older eyes, contrast is key.

It might be tempting to use bright, harsh and attention-grabbing colors in your website, thinking that will help draw a senior’s eyes, but in reality, the smart designer knows to use color intelligently. That means using bright pops of color in strategic (and limited!) places so as to draw attention to the most important items on the page – buttons and calls to action, specifically.

In all other instances and uses, colors should be tasteful and with strong contrast. It might look stylish to have a super slick, small font in grey overtop a black background, but honestly, chances are your audience won’t even be able to read it, so what’s the point? And, don’t underestimate the power of empty space – a spacious, breathable design will feel far more welcoming than a cluttered and overwhelming one.

Contrast matters in terms of colors, but it also matters in terms of other visuals on your site. Organizing the information you are presenting in a clear and easily delineated manner is important for seniors who may not be as naturally adept at navigating confusing websites. Clear color contrast can help in this regard.

It can also help when talking about text and font choices. Fonts that are large, simple and contrast strongly with the background will be far more appealing to visually challenged site visitors. You can use contrast to make headlines, subheadings, and body text within your website distinct and clear.

You can also use smart contrast in conjunction with sizing choices to create a smart visual hierarchy for your viewers. Everything being the same size is no good, but neither is having things be too small or overwhelmingly large. When it comes to fonts, allowing your viewer to adjust their screen and font sizes easily is key; make that action quick and simply to find on your site. Use sizing, like you did with color, to draw attention to specific portions of your site and to draw the viewer’s eyes along in the journey you want them to “walk.” Big headers lead viewers’ eyes to the text below, for example.

In general, here are some key takeaways:

  • Use tasteful but high contrast colors to make text pop
  • Incorporate the smart use of empty space to keep designs breathable
  • Use sizing to create sensible visual hierarchy
  • Keep fonts clean and simple, and easily adjusted
  • Make buttons clearly contrasted with the background, and use highly readable fonts within those buttons
  • Be consistent, and keep it simple! Easy is better than impressive when it comes to getting your viewer to do what you want them to do.

What steps do you take to ensure your site appeals to seniors? If you’re not sure, or you think your look could use an update, we’d love to help. We have expert creative professionals on our team, like Dean Kistner, who have the experience to put creativity in your favor.

SageAge Strategies is a multiple award-winning, strategic growth and marketing organization that provides multiple strategic growth solutions. For more information, please call or e-mail Adrienne Mansfield Straub at 570-601-1720 ext. 100 /

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