DC Startup Week Design Thinking Seminar: Designing for the 50-Plus

By Mark Ogilbee posted 09-29-2022 09:27 AM

Kyrian Batiste of the AgeTech Collaborative™

Based in Washington, D.C., DC Startup Week (DCSW) is a vibrant community of startup founders that hosts an annual conference, also called DC Startup Week, which aims to be the region’s premier entrepreneurship conference for education and training “for founders, by founders.” 

Kyrian Batiste, an advisor and design thinker at AARP’s Innovation Labs, led a seminar called “Designing for the 50-Plus” at this year’s DC Startup Week event, outlining a series of best practices for designing web sites and other materials for the AgeTech space. 

For anyone interested in optimizing design their websites with the end user in mind — particularly when those end users are among the 50-plus — here are some of Batiste's key takeaway tips and best practices. 


Seek a Deep Understanding of Your User 

“One of the most fundamental things you should do before you start any design project is to have an understanding of your audience,” says Batiste. By making the effort to get to know your users, you free yourself from stereotypes and mere assumptions about what they want and need. Batiste adds: "That means you need to go to your local retirement home, or your local grocery store. Sit outside, talk with people, and ask questions. These are the things that build empathy and a connection between your user and your product.” 


Understand the Importance of Readability and Legibility 

Legibility is the ease with which your user can scan or navigate lines of text. A separate but related function is readability, which can be defined as the ease by which a user can interpret and comprehend text. 

Strategies for making sure your website has high legibility and readability include: 

  • Stick to typefaces drawn from a single family of fonts for consistency.
  • Use headings and subheadings to clearly indicate the hierarchy of information.
  • Space text elements to allow for plenty of white space on the page. 
  • Make your call to action buttons big enough to make clicking easy.

“Make sure your language is respectful and effectively communicates how people want to be viewed,” Batiste adds. “People who are 50-plus don’t want to be perceived as old; active agers especially don’t want to called ‘senior citizens.’  


Leverage the Power of Color Contrast 

Batiste notes, “Colors are important elements of design: They evoke emotion and create hierarchy, and variations in color add emphasis.” Having a good color palette and strong contrast within it as part of your design will allow readers to better comprehend your content. This is especially critical for websites largely designed for people who are 50-plus, since eyesight typically begins to decline after about the age of 40. 

If you’re not sure whether you have sufficient contrast on your site, you can use a contrast checker, which are widely available online. 


Select Your Imagery Carefully 

According to AARP,  80% of people 50-plus say that marketers assume they live their lives according to outdated stereotypes. But this isn’t reality — nor is it how active agers want to be perceived. Reaching an audience of older adults means you have to be deliberate about the images you choose. Batiste says, “Make sure that your images representing older adults show them as active and independent. But you don’t want to go too far that you become gimmicky.” 

Keep the images on your site under 5500 kilobytes to avoid slow loading times. Include alternative text for every image so users with a visual impairment can engage with the pictures via screen readers, tools that translate the alternative text to speech. 


For more information about DC Startup Week and the seminars offered at their 2022 event, check out their website.