Senior-Friendly Technology: Onboarding Elderly Users

For a lot of young people, seniors and technology often seem to be opposites.

It is perceived that older generations have a hard time catching up with innovation and that the newest technological progress is not catered to them.

As a result, and even though 19% of Europe and 17% of North America is over 65, that demographic appears to be an afterthought for tech companies.

If you stop and think about any 85-year old today, however, you would be challenged not to be in awe of the adoption capabilities they’ve displayed in the span of their lifetime:

From 1935, some of the mainstream technologies that have appeared include widespread telephone and television usage, the personal computer, internet access, mobile phones, social media, all the way to artificial intelligence through home devices like voice assistants.

Your grandma posting obnoxious Facebook updates on her timeline might be a bit cringeworthy at times, but it’s also a testament of how far technology has come, considering she might not have had access to a car, phone, or even television during her childhood. Some younger demographics have a hard time catching to emerging trends (I’m looking at you, bitter 30-year-olds criticizing Tik Tok dances), so let’s give our seniors some credit.

“In 2000, 14% of those ages 65 and older were internet users; now 73% are. And while smartphone ownership was uncommon at all ages around the turn of the 21st century, now about half (53%) of people 65 and older are smartphone owners.”

Source: Forbes

The law of accelerating returns demonstrates how technological advances tend to feed off each other, increasingly promoting new innovation. This is bound to continue, and leaving seniors out of it is not only unfair but also irresponsible. Innovation should be all-inclusive and aiming to empower our aging population instead of leaving them on the sideline. 

Now that we agree that senior users are a valuable and important demographic for tech companies to address, what are the steps you can take to increase your product adoption among elderly users? 

In this post, we will first go over some of the reasons why senior users don’t engage with technology and how to drive change. We will then focus on user onboarding, how it connects to our topic, and how it can help you increase your product’s adoption among senior users.

Why are senior users not engaging with technology and what to do about it?

When talking about elderly users and technology, we often associate poor user adoption with physical challenges: The buttons are too small, users cannot see where to click, they might not be familiar with UX and UI principles that are a given for your generations, etc.

“Frustration appeared to be a significant barrier, which led to a lack of self-confidence and motivation to pursue using the technology,”

Shengzhi Wang of the Design Lab at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) (source: Forbes)

While there definitely are physical barriers to entry for seniors with software and technology, research shows that once connected, they engage at an impressive rate. In the US, four-in-ten seniors now own smartphones, and out of these, 76% use the internet several times a day or more.

In their article “The Wisdom of Older Technology (Non)Users” (Communications of the ACM, March 2018), authors Bran Knowles and Vicki L. Hanson highlight the fact that beyond the questions of usability or risk perception, some of the barriers of entry for senior technology users are deeply rooted in your value proposition

Indeed, the perception that the elderly don’t use your product because they can’t is necessarily accurate:

Maybe they just don’t want to.

As obvious as it might seem, one of the most powerful strategies you can implement to improve your product adoption with senior users is to include them in the process.

Communicating with your senior target demographic will allow you to hone in on what they really care about, which might differ from what other users care about. In turn, by understanding senior users’ pain points, values, and how your product can help them, you’ll be able to adjust your communication, but also your product itself.

“Technologies that are commonly used by older adults are often developed without consulting them at the early stage of product conception. (…) Our study showed that older adults are experts in their lived experiences and can identify the potential barriers to technology adoption and use.

Source: Forbes

Ideally, you’d be able to integrate senior users in the early stages of your product ideation and design, receiving feedback, and adjusting accordingly. However, we all know that this is not always possible and/or the case.

You have a product today, and want to improve senior user adoptions, what can you do?

seniors and technology

Enter the single most important thing you can work on to improve user adoption: Onboarding.

Senior-Friendly user onboarding

What is user onboarding?

You might have played the Mario Bros games when you were younger.

Do you remember how they started off very easily as you slowly discovered the controls? You progressively discovered how to jump, how to run, how mushrooms made you bigger, jumping on enemies would kill them, etc. No need to read a 30-page manual or watch a video tutorial, you were seamlessly guided by design, slowly gathering the mechanics of the game yourself, until you became good enough to, hopefully, save the princess.

My parents, who have played 2 or 3 video games throughout their lives, were better at navigating as Mario than I. They even used to compete with each other, and really enjoy the game.

This is the type of experience you want to give your users.

Granted, SaaS products are not always as fun as jumping on carnivorous plants and fighting dinosaurs, but guiding your users and more importantly actively involving them in your product early on is the key to successful product adoption.

As broken down in our User Onboarding Ultimate Guide following the words of onboarding guru Samuel Hulick, an effective customer onboarding must be:

  • User-centric
  • Action-oriented
  • Informed
  • Constantly evolving
  • Holistic

This can be achieved with purposeful tooltips and walkthroughs that will help your users gain value from the very start of their journey. But what about senior users specifically?

How important is user onboarding for seniors?

“An average app loses 77% of its daily active users after 3 days.”

Source

Now if you’ve ever tried to explain a new piece of software to an elderly person, you know that this is especially true with senior users. Resistance to change can be high, and taking care of their onboarding is especially important as a result. 

 At the heart of a user onboarding and product adoption is the question of value

By promoting and highlighting the value of what the user is trying to achieve, customer onboarding helps guide them to the problem your product solves. This goes full circle with the concept of the value proposition we touched on above in the article, and allows your onboarding to act as an enabler of technology for your senior users: Instead of looking around and trying to figure out how it works, they can just follow the steps.

seniors and technology

7 actionable tips to create an effective user onboarding for senior users

While the same universal principles mentioned earlier in the article for a great onboarding hold true regardless of the age of your customers, it is important to keep older users in mind when designing an onboarding flow catered to them. 

Here are 7 actionable points for an effective onboarding strategy for senior users:

1- Get hold of a User Onboarding Software:

This is probably the most actionable tip I can ever give to you:

A User Onboarding tool is a must if you are in it for the best results.

Let me explain:

A 3rd-party user onboarding software, especially one that is no-code, can help you easily create user onboarding experiences that you can publish today. It doesn’t require you to be a burden on a developer’s backlog and waiting weeks to create something, you can create action and get results in minutes.

If you want to easily create beautiful experiences for your senior users, and everyone else; UserGuiding is the right tool for you because:

  • It doesn’t require any coding,
  • You can create interactive product tours, checklists, in-app messages, and more…
  • You can segment users based on their demographics, interests, and motives to create unique onboardings,
  • You can analyze the performance of your creations.

Simple, Affordable, and Powerful User Onboarding Software.

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2- Show the value:

More than with any other demographics, you want to make sure that the value of your product is clearly demonstrated with senior users.

By addressing the problem you’re helping them solve, you will ensure that users stay engaged and actually interested to follow along. 

3- Avoid jargon:

With senior users, keeping it simple in terms of copy will go a long way.

While you want to provide details to clear any doubts and explain thoroughly, avoiding technical terms and jargon is extremely important. As we’ve seen throughout the article, a sense of inadequacy can at times be a factor for older users to drop out and avoid technology. Make sure to use clear, simple vocabulary and sentences.

4- Take it slow:

A major asset of onboarding is that it helps the users build confidence and become proficient in a progressive, playful way.

To cater to senior users, you want to go for slow, thorough guides and walkthroughs that will  explain step by step what to do and why.  

5- Provide templates:

While offering advanced personalization might be a great strategy for products aimed at millennials, it’s not necessarily the case for older demographics.

In alignment with keeping the language jargon-free, you should aim at providing readily available templates whenever possible, to minimize the need for extra steps and get as close as possible to a turnkey solution. 

6- Mention internet safety:

Something that has come up time and time again throughout studies and research papers, is the importance of safety and the mitigation of risk for senior users.

Older generations are adopting technology, but it’s vital that you reassure them about it. Data protection, secure payment, or privacy are topics that matter greatly to this demographic and that you definitely want to highlight during their onboarding.

7- Include them!

Finally, going full circle with the importance to design with older generations in mind, you must involve them in your onboarding ideation and conception.

By gathering feedback, running tests and focus groups, and monitoring usage, you’ll be able to notice what works and what doesn’t!

Examples of senior-friendly onboarding include Netflix, which breaks down the entire process of signing up, adding payment, and personalizing your account in a few steps. It focuses on clarity, highlighting the value and purpose of each step in a simple, non-jargon language. While mentioning features, it also reassures the user about potential drop-out factors such as providing credit card details.

netflix plans

For more examples of intuitive onboarding, check our article on 4 Examples of Great User Onboarding.

Conclusion

We’ve been over several ways to improve senior users’ adoption of your product, and how important that is.

Onboarding is a powerful tool not only to improve product adoption, promote a self-serve approach, and include micro-interactions within your product but also to make sure it is inclusive of many different profiles of users. 

In an increasingly diverse world, it is paramount that technology serves as a vector for progress and inclusion, getting rid of gatekeeping and allowing anyone to benefit from the wonders of the internet. After all, we hope that we all will be the senior users of tomorrow! 

Alican Bektas

Alican is the Product Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that 2000+ companies trust in their user onboarding.

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