Too many websites are not "Senior Friendly"

By: Ronald Kay. Updated: September 17, 2021.

Problem description

There are very many websites of service providers which are very difficult to navigate.

Seniors with impaired ability to remember the counterintuitive sequence of required interactions are particularly impacted.   

A registry or certification of “Recommended Senior Sites” could provide an incentive to some of these site owners to revise their websites, created years ago.

Insofar as this problem affects many users beyond the growing senior community, such a website certification could have an enormous impact upon productivity in general.


Specific example:

I have used an on-line payment service to pay bills for some time. My latest payment was “rejected”.  I was not notified of this rejection by the payment service, but by the payee!  Embarrassing.

Unable to track down the source of the problem on the website of the payment service: Ultimately was prompted to establish a security question to gain access to my profile.

No directions as to how and where to satisfy the request !!  Tried every conceivable access point to no avail.  Gave up.

This is hardly an exceptional story.  The unique disadvantage of a senior, - no access to a knowledgeable colleague nearby.


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from Richard-Caro (member) at May 23, 2014

I love this idea. I wonder if there is already such a thing? If not, perhaps we should talk about how to create one?

Actually I resonate even more with the issue of payment problems and the like. I dont think this is a senior issue actually. I am suddenly finding that it is hard to get paper bills anymore as everyone wants you to pay and be billed electronically. That is fine in theory, but here is my story.

I switched to Comcast a year or so ago for my Internet, because I found the service of my prior carrier AT&T to be truly awful. I have it set up so that I get "electronic bills", and my bank pays a fixed amount to Comcast for me every month. I chose this amount to be larger than I expected the bills would be with the idea that this way I would always be slightly in credit, and if need be I could reduce the payments later on.

A year went by and I gave it no thought. And then I thought I would see how much I had "overpaid" by now. That's when it got interesting. My electronic bills can only be viewed by logging into my Comcast account, which is protected by several passswords and secret questions, all of which I happen to have made a note of. And I have logged in just fine to this account in the past. So I tried them and it told me that "your password or username is incorrect".

OK. I tried to reset my password, and it told me I could only do that if I answered my secret question first. No problem. I knew the answer to that. Except, Comcast decided that my answer was wrong. And thus that it would not reset my password, and thus I could not log in, and thus could not check my online bills.

So, quite annoyed by now, I got on the online chat with a representative of Comcast (in India). He spent 5 minutes telling me how much he cared about service and helping me and then got around to asking what the problem was. I told him. He said, "No problem". Just reset the password. I said "I did that". He said "Lets do it again".

Of course, all this took over an hour. Not sure why.

Eventually he told me he was not able to reset my password. He did not know why. He would need to ask a supervisor. The supervisor came on and spent 5 minutes telling me how much they cared about customer service and asking if I would like to buy some extra Comcast products. He asked what I needed. I told him.

He said "No problem, sir. You just need to reset your password.

I looked at my watch. An hour and a half had elapsed. I hung up.

So, I decided I would end run this and just start getting old fashioned paper bills again. I enquired how to do that. "Sir", said the customer service rep. from Comcast, "It is easy. You just log in to your account on our website and restart paper bills". AAgh!!

It's as if we need some type of customer movement for better useability overall. And not just for seniors.

Rant over.


from Ronald Kay (member) at May 23, 2014

The Goodhousekeeping seal for websites is surely on the minds of the largest players on the web. A general disillusionment with web commerce would affect them more than the smaller players. They are probably disinclined to pressure the smaller players to assume what is likely to be perceived as a burden. They could sponsor a public service approach for someone to play the role of regulator. Again not an idea to create excitement in the front office.

Confining this to “Senior Websites” is 1. more manageable in scope,   2. more attractive in its “special needs” aim, and 3. an opportunity for a business venture:  If you want to market your product or service to seniors, let us help you do it in an optimal fashion. We can either design your website for you, or review and improve  what you have.

We have a “non – IT”  group of seniors who will test drive your  website and provide us with the kind of feedback which we will convert it into a senior friendly one.

This could be a challenge for an existing website developer or a startup.

A successful “Senior Website” venture could certainly morph into a Goodhousekeeping approach with time and in a more disciplined approach in the future. There may even be some University Departments of Journalism thinking along these lines?






from Richard-Caro (member) at May 23, 2014

That makes total sense.

I think I was pointing out that there is a bigger challenge that needs solving, and you are rightly pointing out that you need to start somewhere and there is a lot of benefit to focus, and the senior focus has lots of reasons why it is attractive. We are 100% on the same page.

One of the ideas behind this website is to surface good ideas like this and then see if we can help groups come together to implement them. Are you interested in talking about an action plan on this, or were you more thinking someone else should pick up the ball and run with it?


from John Milford (member) at August 03, 2014

Web site error messages are often cryptic (written by 'techies' for 'techies') not 'user friendly', especially to older adults. Why not use 'friendly' error messages, including a clear direction as to what to do to correct the condition?

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