I'm currently working on a Japanese website (all in Japanese) aimed towards Japanese users age ranging from 50+. It's not a traffic heavy website and it's just mostly text and information with a news/blog. I know that there are web design/usability features that I could follow for creating a suitable website for the elderly but I worry about designing UI, navs, and in the near future making it responsive. Are there any guidelines I could follow?

  • Be aware that Japaneses are way more technophile than westeners. Id disregard any question which isn't Japanese specific. – Knu Jul 6 '13 at 15:06
  • I'd be wary of this tendendency to lump everybody "over 50" into one big demographic (50-90) - that would be similar to lumping everyone from 10 - 50 together... – PhillipW Jul 7 '13 at 9:00
  • I'll leave a short comment here about usability for elder people as users. Elder users are less familiarity with the unwritten 'rules' of the web. For example many elder users does not knows how to send message without 'submit' button. Also one elder user asked me why password field is masked and he cannot see the password while typing. And also elder users does not like to read text with font size less than 12 pixels. – webvitaly Jul 10 '13 at 20:50

thanks for Chris for her bigging up of my talk...

Echoing what she said, it's important to make both buttons and fonts big and clear, both for visually-impaired people, as well as those have slight motor control issues, too.

The main thing, though, is to be as simple as possible. Never assume that a design feature is 'well-known' or that a heading's meaning is immediately obvious.

Older people also respond well (as most of us do) to clear visual clues, both images and icons.

And there's also still a sense of mistrust of the web among the older population in general. Too many scare stories in the media (well, in the UK definitely) ... so make it clear why you're collecting personal information if you are doing so.

Overall, though, it's important to remember that older people are really no different to you or I. They just tend to do things a little slower than the younger generation and don't like too much clutter, so the more pared-back your site can be, the better.

In fact, responsive sites will help in this regard, because the reduction of columns as your screen gets smaller, means you're likely to prioritise your important messages and content for mobile.

Does that help?

  • Thanks, that's gold! I'll make sure the content-guy ensures no ambiguity within the text to look for more images and icons. Awesome! – Syafiq Jul 10 '13 at 6:54

@robram gave a great talk (video) recently about how he designed the Age UK website. It's ostensibly content strategy, but really ends up being a useful list of how to create online content for older adults. He presents some statistics, such as that over-55s now make up 20% of the online demographic — while these are representative of the UK, not Japan, I feel like they're probably still pretty relevant. Slides of Rob's talk are here.

In general, I'd say go for simplicity. That doesn't mean you shouldn't provide in-depth information (as Rob's talk demonstrates, older adults are much more likely than most to want to read about stuff in-depth) — rather, think about what it's like to be an older adult and how that might affect your designs:

  • poorer eyesight and duller senses generally — use big clear fonts

  • poorer, slower dexterity — don't use any fiddly interaction designs that make people chase around the screen, and make sure all click/touch targets are generously sized

  • less familiarity with the unwritten 'rules' of the web — use well-established design patterns and UI elements, and maybe more traditional navigation styles.

  • more cautious — make sure you are especially clear in places where older adults might experience anxiety or uncertainty, such as e-checkouts or anything involving money. Make sure users know what to expect, and reassure them with clear language about what just happened when they clicked that thing.

  • older adults seem to really love iPads — make sure your site works smoothly on touchscreen devices.

I'm sure there's more! Hope this helps you get started.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is great, most of the things you mentioned have already been accounted for except for the iPad-responsive design for the site. Cheers! – Syafiq Jul 10 '13 at 6:52

The Nielson-Norman Group has report about designing websites for the elderly, which includes many design guidelines for doing it. There's more than 100 guidelines in their report, so it's far outside the scope of this answer to include them all here, but here are some things that I've found from this report that are useful:

  • Elderly users usually have lower manual dexterity, so navigation should be designed to limit the need for fine selection (drop-down boxes, for example, are often problematic). Make sure that any clickable item has a big click area.

  • Elderly users usually have less acute eyesight, so select fonts that are easily readable.

The research that I'm aware of is for Western users. I would love to see research about designing websites for elderly Japanese users and how that differs (if at all) from designing websites for elderly Western users. This would be a great CHI paper!


The important thing to understand is that your target demographic is unlikely to be familiar with many concepts that you may take for granted. Look for instance at this site. There's a B I just above this text box. I know without thinking that it is abutton to format text as bold/italic.

This means you need to take fewer shortcuts, and be more verbose in places.

  • Thanks, but it's a bit of a vague answer that you put out. For exmaple, regarding navigation: would Japanese elderly use it normally like dropdowns or 'click-downs' (i.e. click a link and a dropdown comes out) and would they be more familiar with a sidebar navigation or a top horizontal bar? And what about 3D vs Flat designs that are found in today's modern website designs. I think a discussion might help better – Syafiq Jul 5 '13 at 8:14
  • True, your question is not a good fit for this Q&A site. Discussions are not the intent here. But to address your example: a large fraction of the elderly struggle even with the concept of navigation itself. You don't really have to "navigate" a book. They can't do F scans of a page. – MSalters Jul 5 '13 at 10:00
  • Ah, understood. That makes sense since the elderly are used to a more physical media compared to a screen-and-mouse media. – Syafiq Jul 11 '13 at 2:25

Perhaps you can clean some insights from this blog on Japanese digital seniors (デジタルシニア) based on some mobile UX. I'd concur with much of what is already said in the answers here such as keeping it simple, larger visuals and affordances, buttons, keyboard as well as mouse navigation, dealing with concerns about clicking contact links, posting comments and so on.


We are all temporarily abled by the way, so consider some of these features can have benefits for us all at some point...:)



Just wanted to add this to the answer pile: screen-reader compatibility and general accessibility.

Along with the usual 'signs of aging', there may be acquired disability and impairment factors to take into consideration too.

Hope this answer isn't too vague. My friend's grandma has cataracts, so relies on her (very loud) screen reader for using the internet (much to his dismay very early in the morning). :)

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