Web Development for Our Parents’ Generation

The Wonder Jam’s team is 100% Millennial. I’m the team’s elder statesman at 35 years old, and the vast majority of our clients are either generational peers or targeting our demographic. So, it was a great change of pace — and an exciting creative opportunity — to work with Paula Harer and her business, “Starting Over at Sixty.”

Paula’s business is built around providing resources, encouragement, and inspiration to other women in her age group that are navigating big life changes in a rapidly changing world. We’ve never designed and built a website for boomers, by boomers that also needed to feel extremely personal. Allie and Erika kept this in mind throughout the design process:

My focus when designing this site was streamlining—get to the point and eliminate all clutter. Many  sites targeting my age group are more exploratory, more experiential, but here we needed clarity above all else. — Erika, TWJ Designer

Once I started building the live site, some unique challenges emerged that are worth unpacking. The core idea I kept coming back to as I made all the little decisions of building a site was, “If my mom or dad came to this site, how would it go for them?”

Thinking much more about vertical tablets than usual

We make sure every site we build looks good on phones, tablets, and big monitors, but I spent much more time than usual tinkering with how “Starting Over at Sixty” appears in a very specific form factor: iPad, upright portrait orientation. Why? Because that’s how my mom reads the entire internet when she gets home from work.

“Sent from iPad” in an email footer is often, for better or worse, a generational marker… and for good reason! It’s a great way to comfortably consume content on the couch and it’s easy to zoom in and out for readability. I can just picture my mom in the sunroom casually scrolling as she listens to NPR. While that vertical-iPad format can sometimes be an awkward in-between phase between the desktop and phone layouts, I wanted to make sure this site looked perfectly suited to it.

Prioritizing readability over spatial efficiency

I hope this doesn’t sound patronizing, but I don’t want anyone visiting this site to say to themselves, “Hold up a minute, I need to get my reading glasses.” Knowing the specific demographics Paula is targeting, let’s think of fonts and font size in terms of user experience in addition to aesthetics. Just like I don’t want to make a user click through a bunch of things to get to what they need, I don’t want them to have to put down their device and go find glasses to be able to read it!

Font size was a big flaw in Paula’s previous site — it was small, even for me. For the redesign, and especially on mobile and smaller screens, I wanted to make sure the font was big and clearly legible, even if it meant more scrolling or a looser column structure than we usually prefer. The flexibility, in this case, was much more important than efficiency of space or how much content is “above the fold.”

Integrating tools as seamlessly, clearly, and as unintimidating as possible

Between consulting, lead tracking, an email list, and sales of her “Sisters Program,” Paula’s site has more integration of third-party services than most. Of course, we always want these integrations to feel seamless and intuitive for the user, but we knew that our wiggle room was especially narrow on this one. All it takes is one unexpected interaction to cause a lot of confusion and frustration. For this, I pictured how my dad would react if a new tab popped open after clicking something without adequate warning (I love you, dad!).

So, on a site that needed to incorporate PayPal, MailChimp, Ninja Forms, and Calendly (plus having those services play nicely with each other), how did we keep things as clear and straightforward for the user as possible? There’s no magic solution (at our price point at least!), but here are some tactics we used:

Embedding as much as possible

Paula uses Calendly to let potential clients schedule a phone chat with her without needing to go back and forth to find a mutually available time. It’s an amazing tool that’s becoming more ubiquitous, and in most cases I just link a “Schedule a Call” button to someone’s Calendly account in a new tab. Paula, correctly, pointed out this might be confusing for some people new to the platform. Instead (and after some compatibility troubleshooting), I was able to use Calendly’s embed tools to integrate it directly onto the site. So now, when someone hits the button, the Calendly interface opens as a small popup and feels like it’s part of the site, not a third party:

A deceptively simple purchase process

Paula sells only one product — a membership group called the “Sisters Program” — so a full e-commerce platform would be total overkill. A basic PayPal button, however, has very limited features and isn’t very flexible. We were able to bridge the gap between those two poles by creating a simple-looking Ninja Form that does many things:

  • Captures vital information like name and email address and sends that info to Paula
  • Adjusts the purchase price based on a new or renewing membership
  • Adds the user to a special Mailchimp list to get all the relevant news and resources for the program
  • Gives the user immediate access to the first PDF resource “10 Steps to More Confidence”

As for the user experience, we would have to send them over to PayPal to make the actual purchase, but made sure to make the fact that was going to happen very clear in the form, and get them right back to the warm bosom of our site afterward.

Custom confirmations and redundant rewards

Speaking of the warm bosom of our site, we made sure that all “confirmation pages” were hosted on the site, itself, as opposed to the third party’s default page. This applied to the product purchase above, as well as signing up for Paula’s general email list via Mailchimp. This is always a good idea, but especially important in this case where we wanted to absolutely minimize any feeling of “it took me somewhere else.”

Relatedly, we added as much redundancy as possible when it came to the rewards and freebies Paula offered as incentives for signups or purchases. In addition to be being able to download that PDF on our own confirmation pages, we have that link in the confirmation email and the first few emails of the autoresponder sequence. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of, “I just did the thing… where is my reward?” so we want to hit them with it at every turn!

A final note about process: Paula herself was an invaluable resource in developing everything above. We sussed out many of these challenges we’d face very early in our pre-design meetings, and her instincts and concerns were all spot on. In addition to training her to use, update, and expand her new site (as we do with all clients), we made sure to sit down and walk though all of the user-processes with her to make sure she felt like the process was smooth and exactly how she intended (within the confines of our technology, of course). Many of our clients look to us for guidance around aesthetics, best practices, and the latest tools — but when it comes to how people will actually use their website, the client’s instincts are usually right on target!

April 2, 2019
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