I had a client recently engage me about wanting to reach younger audiences without alienating the older groups and vice versa. In my experience, there isn’t necessarily as big of a disconnect with regard to your website as you might think. You don’t have to try to mix styles – modern and old-fashioned. Rather you need to be aware of the needs of each group with which you are trying to communicate. There are a great many things you can do to your site that will actually work to appeal to various age groups.
1. Usability: Keep it simple
Older clientele tend to be more concerned with usability. Get me in, get it done, and get me out. Have a strong sense of K.I.S.S. here. And make sure your site meets web standards and accessibility standards. Include font resizers and make sure you’re using a responsive layout. Most importantly deliver a navigation system that is obvious. Don’t get so clever, that no one knows how to get around your site. If your site is meant to be art, then make that clear, otherwise your site is there to sell something. (Not always for money, sometimes just for their time). Don’t put up unnecessary barriers.
2. Stay Away from Fluff
This may sound like the same thing, but I wanted to make a distinction in that sometimes we use “filler” to try to make a site look better. Mature audiences tend to see through this, and it makes you look like you’re a) lazy b) a 2-bit salesman hack or c) don’t know what you’re talking about. Bells and Whistles, they call it. Avoid them. A good general guideline is that if it doesn’t enhance the user experience or directly supply added value, lose it. And, no, that flashing gif probably isn’t adding value.
3. Be Accurate
People who have lived longer, read more, done more, seen more, and developed intuitively more than you’ve researched tend to notice when you pull bad information. These are generalizations, of course, but not a bad place to start. Being accurate helps everyone involved. How to be accurate? Get your information from multiple sources, preferably both on and off-line. Use reputable resources that can back up their information with solid science. Drawing from your experience is valuable if you have become somewhat of an expert on the topic. Avoid the temptation to throw out figures or pad information to sound more impressive or make your point.
4. You can be trendy
Being trendy in your design does not necessarily alienate people by age group. Yes, some will prefer different looks, but your modern design doesn’t have to turn people off. If you stick to the above rules, people outside your particular style and age group can appreciate the difference and still interact successfully with your site. You don’t have to put a 50lb boom box on your site to reach my generation, for example. I can appreciate YOUR brand. If you treat me like I’m not welcome, however, that is another story. And that will lose you potential business from people otherwise interested.