Four considerations when designing forms for older adults - Part 2

Posted 09/10/2020 by Sana Kamalmaz

In a previous post, we explored 4 considerations that need some attention when designing web forms that will be used by older people. These considerations aim to compensate for the physiological and cognitive changes that come with aging, and to ultimately make sure these forms are accessible and have a healthy conversion rate. In this post, we’ll add in 4 more.

Older adults using technology

Four more considerations when designing web forms for older adults

5. Typeface, Sizes and Colors

Text accessibility is a lengthy subject that warrants a blog post of its own. However, I will list some rules of thumb that can help you achieve a good level of accessibility. For older adults and people with low vision, simple sans serif fonts are much easier to read than serif, script, and decorative typefaces. In terms of sizes, aim for a font size of 19 pixels or 14 points, and for a line height that is 130% - 150% of your font size. When selecting background and text colors, aim for a contrast ratio of 7:1 (online contrast calculators are available).

(reference: https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/)

6. Optional and Required Fields

In case your form includes both required and optional fields, you need to indicate to your users which ones are required and which ones they can leave out. While asterisks have been commonly used to indicate required fields, I would like to point out a few considerations. In the case of designing for older adults, maximizing accessibility is our first priority, and that might mean indicating required fields more explicitly by affixing (required) after the field label, as some of your users may not be aware of the common use of asterisks in forms. You may also indicate optional fields the same way for more clarity. This tactic fulfills two objectives: it is a direct and universally understood indication, in addition to its readability by screen readers. If you decide that you can overlook the first consideration and use asterisks instead, make sure that you take screen readers into account. This can be done by adding HTML markup that instructs screen readers to say “required” whenever a form field is proceeded by an asterisk, or by using the required or aria-required attributes, which would instruct readers to announce “required” with associated field labels.

Whichever method you decide to choose is up to you. In all cases, make sure you consider screen readers in your decision, and do not count on generic instructions at the top of the form that indicate that all fields are required; most people do not read these instructions.

7. Use Alternative Text for Image Buttons

Adding alternative text (alt text) to images, in general, has always been a best practice from both perspectives: accessibility and search engine optimization. Some of the common dos and don’ts around writing a good alt text include:

  • Describe the image and be specific
  • Keep it fewer than 125 characters
  • Use your keywords wisely and sparingly (no stuffing)
  • Don't include image of or picture of in the alt text
  • Pay attention to the context the image is used in

Now, if your form uses images as buttons, make sure you give those images alt attributes that describe the function of the buttons like search, move to the next step, sign up, etc.

8. Do Not Add a Form Field or a Question Unless You Really Have to

This one is also a good practice with forms in general. People fill out forms to get something: book an appointment, download a resource, receive updates, apply for a job, etc. To get to what they want, the form is in their way. Sparing users the trouble of having to fill out fields that are not necessary will be greatly appreciated, and this appreciation will take the form of a higher conversion rate. Remember that the amount of information you ask users to provide in a form needs to be balanced by the value they perceive in what you offer them after they submit the form (if you’re using Sitecore forms, you can easily test and find that sweet spot). Now think about users who might be using screen readers or any type of aid like large font size. The effect of having to fill out one more field is compounded. Stop and ask yourself: are all these questions really necessary? If some are not, maybe they should go.

And there you have it, four more considerations when designing web forms for older adults. This is by no means inclusive. And I’d love to hear from you if you have some thoughts of your own or have any questions. Let me know by leaving a comment below.