Age is important if you are a Wine or a Cheese ... or a Web user

Andrew Arch, <>



wine mature cheese

Age is important ...


"The only things certain in life are death and taxes"

"... but before death comes old age, which can only be avoided by dying young "



You've all heard about the changing demographic situation around the world as not enough of us wanted to avoid old age - in some countries, e.g. Japan, there will shortly be one-third of the population over 65 years. Many older people are already online, and more will be soon.

What are some of the common experiences of older Web users?


  1. "The only things certain in life are death and taxes" is from B. Franklin
  2. "... but before death comes old age, which can only be avoided by dying young" was from an attendee at at a recent conference I spoke at.

User experiences




We've looked at over 150 studies (a meta-study of other studies) that investigated older people online, the issues they face, and their reqiorements. The studies reported a wide diversity of reqiorements, due in part to experience and in part to varying levels and types of gae-related impairments.

Cognitive issues were commonly reported - even the user interface can be confusing for new users ...

Common barrier

“I'm about to run out of space so will finish up.”
   Ada (85 years) at the computer sending email


My mother-in-law wrote in an early email (she bought her computer in 2007) "I'm about to run out of space soon so will finish up". She was using web-based email and didn't recognise that the form would expand if she kept typing.

What else did we find?




Sound familiar?


Not many studies identified technical aspects of accessibilty and not many studies involved assistive technologies or adaptive strategies.

But many studies did identify usability aspects of accessibility as well as broader usability requirements. For example, presentation (including white space, font, text size, line spacing, colours and contrast) was commonly discussed along with identifying and understanding links and using web forms.

Does this much of this sound familiar?

It's in WCAG 2.0!



We mapped the identified requirements to WCAG 2.0 and the majority were covered - we will also be suggesting a few additional techniques to to the working group.

With the changing world demogrpahics, we would suggest that all technical developments should take a look at WCAG 2.0's principles and guidelines in order to consider the needs of older people.

Thank you

Lunch today:


WAI-AGE Project:

[Press "A" to see speaking notes for slides]