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The Shift in Internet User Demographics

For the longest time people believed that the Internet was a playground for the young. “Older people don’t use the Internet.”  It was too difficult for them to understand or they’re computer averse. Times are changing. One of the emerging Internet user markets belongs to older Internet users. As people age the older demographic of Internet users will be supplemented by the generation of users who grew up online.  Are older users part of your demographic?

The Silver User Demographic
Senior_computer A recent article from the UK's Telegraph titled "Surfing Net is Top Pastime for Elderly" illustrates the shift in Internet user demographics. This is an important trend that every web site owner should understand. Many companies currently focus on creating their online experience around younger Internet users. Lots of bells and whistles that can task saturate even the most adept surfers. They rarely take into consideration the “silver surfers” of the world.

According to the Telegraph’s article 41% of retirees said using the web was one of their favorite activities.  Internet usage exceeded their time for gardening, walking, and other hobbies. Of those surveyed, 40% also indicated that they shop online regularly. Are you aware of the demographic and psychographic profiles of your users?   

The article also identifies some of the particular online activities for older users. Emailing and searching are some of the top activities. This incidentally mirrors some of the activities of younger users.  The older demographic of users will open up brand new markets and online opportunities.

Small Simple Changes
My experience with older surfers reemphasizes the need for web sites with better usability. If you identify part of your demographic as older Internet users make sure you take the time to accommodate their needs. Things like small type and complex navigation turn off older users. Even if you make some simple usability changes to your web site, your users will be appreciative. I cannot recall the last time someone complained about a web site being too easy to use.

There are inherent challenges when it comes to accommodating for a number of different demographics. Some web sites don’t have enough older users to justify changing their approach. Take MySpace into consideration. Almost everything is geared toward young surfers. Ultimately it comes down to knowing your online demographics and making the necessary changes.

As times passes you will have more users who are older. Make sure you accommodate for their needs.

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Old people DO NOT use the interweb. Ever.

Honestly, there should be a federal law against it.

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