As a successful doctor, you no doubt take great pains to make sure your office provides a warm welcome to prospective patients but have you considered whether your practice website does the same?
For doctors with older patients, a poorly designed website can be the online equivalent of having those patients walk in your clinic door and walk right out again. The fact is, even as older Internet users turn to social media for their online research, your website is where many form their first impression of you.
Being aware of their unique needs and abilities — physical, visual and cognitive — can help ensure they stick around.
Older age is not in itself a hindrance to computer or Internet use, says the National Institute on Aging (NIA). However, older adults’ use of electronic technology may be affected by age-related changes in vision and in cognition. Cognitive abilities that… are likely to affect computer use include working memory, perceptual speed, text comprehension, attentional functioning, and spatial memory.
For physicians, the issue takes on increased importance because the number of older adults seeking cosmetic procedures is on the rise. According to ASAPS, more than 684,000 Americans ages 65 and older underwent surgical and non-surgical procedures in 2010, an increase of 29% from 2005.
Chances are your web designer is quite a bit younger so it’s important that they recognize that older users approach the Internet differently. Flash animations, edgy fonts and other tricks may look good on your webmaster’s portfolio but for older users, they can be a precursor to hitting the Back button to renew their search.
Instead, insist on clean, uncluttered design that focuses on readability, empathy and ease of use. Among the suggestions from NIA:
- Text: Be direct, put the key message first and break information into short sections to aid comprehension and recall. Include clear, informative headings, avoid jargon whenever possible and always include an option to change the font size.
- Layout: Include plenty of white space around links and buttons, use colors to group information visually and avoid distracting features (e.g., pop-ups and hover-over links). A site-map link on every page can provide a guide if things get confusing.
- Navigation: Use step-by-step navigation to guide visitors through your website, write descriptive links to help them predict what will happen next and make sure buttons require single, not double mouse clicks to counter older users’ loss of dexterity.
Of course, attention to such details won’t guarantee that visitors to your website will become patients but it’s safe to say that ignoring them will increase the likelihood that they won’t. As Tony Moreno of Usability Sciences suggests, respecting your elders is both a good idea and good for business:
As people live longer, the proportion of seniors turning to the Internet for their information needs is growing. This group’s unique physical and cognitive needs, as well as their buying power, must not be ignored. Remember, the easier a site is for people to use, the more likely they are to use it. Senior citizens are no exception.