Things Baby Boomers Prefer in Website Design

In my job as “project manager” for a boutique website design company, I wear a lot of hats. A typical workday could require me to groom content for a real estate site, set up a series of email newsletters promoting an event, overhaul the architecture for a legal firm’s 150+ page website, and work with new clients and our designer to create the home page layouts of the clients’ dreams.

It is increasingly apparent that the age of the client impacts their concept of what looks good in website design. I’ve observed demographic preferences of other sorts for years – men and women have noticeably different tastes in color palettes, use of fonts and imagery; industry, income and education levels also seem to impact what people find pleasing – but the emergence of distinct preferences based on age is starting to help shortcut my creative briefs and enable us to deliver satisfying designs faster.

Two examples that spring readily to mind are:

The “make my logo bigger” syndrome. Most any design professional you ask will have experience with the request to enlarge the scale of the client logo, no matter what medium it appears in. Current website design trends are using logos at no more than 150 pixels tall by whatever wide, which typically is plenty – businesses are not usually selling logos, and the focus should theoretically be on what the site owner sells or does – and younger clients seem fine with the trendy proportions.

Roughly eight times out of ten, a client who insists on an epic logo is over the age of 38; the older the client, the more likely we’ll have to get out the Make My Logo Bigger cream and blow the balance of all other elements in the page layout to get the design approved.

Splash pages, intros and music. Back in the early days of the commercial Internet, as companies began to work with marketing people to not just make a website but make a website that was different from their competition, graphic designers began to create animated slideshow or movie-like introductions to preface the “real” website. Some designers went as far as to add music or sound effects to the introduction and even the site itself (horrors), and for those who didn’t want to go as far as animation, “splash pages” were invented to create additional exposure for a logo, product or the brand identity.

By 2002 or so these sins occurred rampantly on the Internet, but fortunately inherent issues curtailed the trend after a few years: between the development expenses and plugin issues with Flash, its lack of visibility on search engines, the wasted load time and uneven availability of bandwidth in those days, and the increasing respect of site owners and designers for their viewers, the “intro” design premise went the way of the dodo for the most part.

The only clients who still find this pleasing/ desirable are without fail over 35-years-old, and like the make my logo bigger people, the more adamant they are that these time-wasters are part of their web identity the older they tend to be.

So, I’m on a personal mission to help balance the expectations of middle-aged clients with current UI trends, and to help my twenty-something designer understand the preferences that go against his grain but are somehow critical to meeting the needs of baby boomers.

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