Aeticom study: “The use of the Internet by people over 60 years old”

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Seniors are getting more connected: still, a 2014 study from Doro revealed a large portion of them wished to be assisted to use the Internet and new technologies. Aeticom took an interest into the different ways seniors use the Internet. Here follows a summary of their 2014 study called “The use of the Internet by people over 60 years old”.

Is there a digital divide for people over 60?

RVB de baseWith time, new generations of seniors will inevitably become more technology savvy. However, age remains a significant factor of the digital divide. Indeed:

  • 78 % of non-Internet users are over 60;
  • 52% of retired people and 69% of people over 70 lack interest in the Internet and therefore don’t surf on the web;
  • Only 37% of people aged from 60 to 69 feel they are “competent” enough with the Internet;
  • 55% of people aged from 60 to 69 and 87% of people aged over 70 never shop online;
  • 38% of people aged over 70 and 28% of retired people think the Internet is too difficult to use.

Existing Solutions are inefficient to meet seniors’ expectations

The use of the Internet of seniors is often approached as a matter of dealing with dependency. Otherwise, there is no distinction made for seniors compared with a younger audience. To answer the needs of connected seniors, several experiments on computers, tablets or adapted games are made in retirement homes.

However, the elder web user has specific Internet habits that have to be considered in order to provide them with the best user-experience possible. Moreover, for announcers, the baby-boomer generation is still healthy, has a significant purchase power and therefore wishes to benefit from goods and services like anyone else can. Consequently, 35% of online sales are not completed because websites do not meet seniors’ expectations.

The fast evolution of technologies can hinder the accessibility to the web for senior users

Using the Internet is a learned culture rather than an acquired one.

Many seniors left for retirement before using the Internet became common for a professional use. Many learn to use it by themselves out of interest or passion. Without any basics, using the Internet can be challenging.

Managing compatibilities and updates for personal equipment

Technologies evolve at an extremely fast pace. Staying in touch with new systems requires time, money, and often too much personal investment.

Developer views often clash with user experience

Platforms as well as responsive design websites have multiplied. Therefore, the rules of using the Internet have changed. Users who already struggled to adapt have to increase their effort without always receiving enough consideration of their expectations from developers.

Study conclusions

The 2 studies conducted by Aeticom aimed to complete the results of the American study Seniors Citizens (Aged 65 and older) on the Web, by Nielsen Norman Group.

Aeticom chose to focus its conclusions on cultural and behavioural aspects of how seniors use the web. In order to do that, they analysed the users’ browsing on 5 websites. They wished to see how leaving a website impacted the user’s trust for it, as well as their wish to return or to make a purchase.

  • The first study was made of 20 qualitative one-hour interviews. 4 travel agency websites were evaluated, among which one was specifically designed for seniors.
  • The second study was also made of 20 qualitative one-hour interviews: one news aggregator sites was compared to a template with ergonomics optimized for seniors.

First study: travel agency websites

  • 80% of withdrawals came from users who felt moderately comfortable with the Internet. They made up to 25% of respondents.
  • The mistake or withdrawal rate is close to zero when the user knows the website or if its interface reminds them of another website they know.
  • Satisfaction marks inferior to 3/5 mainly came from users who feel moderately comfortable with the Internet, or from users who left the website before completing their tasks.

Second website: news agregator website and improve template

No participant knew the news aggregator website. Only 45% of users were able to do what they wished to do.

  • 67% of respondents gave a mark inferior to 3/5 for ease of use.
  • 72% of participants gave a mark inferior to 3/5 for the quality of the homepage, the structure and the navigation system.
  • 64% did not wish to visit the website again.

On the improved template, 97% of users were able to complete their tasks.

  • 84% of respondents gave a mark over 4/5 for ease of use.
  • 89% of participants gave a quality mark over 4/5 for the quality of the homepage, the structure and the navigation system.
  • 73% would have visited the website again if it existed.

In light of these results, when designing a website for seniors, Aeticom recommends to take your target’s behavioural factors into account in addition to their knowledge of the web. The two studies also allowed Aeticom to establish a list of 193 good practices to apply when designing a website for seniors.

Website structure: allow the user to build a mental map of the website. Focus the important information on top of the website. Make reading easy and make navigation paths diverse.

Navigation: respect known conventions – such as coherence between pages, menu titles, underline of links, etc… – to ease user learning.

Reception and services: capitalize on the human factor and offer comfort functionalities: optimised search bars, reminder or alert messages, etc…

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