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    How do you connect online with people who don’t use the internet?

    Posted on February 22, 2021

     

    In these times, when a lot of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves without the web, it may surprise you to read that more than one in seven (15%) of people in the UK are classed as internet “non-users”, according to Ofcom data produced for Good Things Foundation.

    Embracing the online world to its fullest potential has become a necessity for most businesses, as they have contended with stop-start lockdowns and persistently lower footfall over the past 12 months, but losing one in seven customers is not ideal, and it could be more for businesses with customers who fall into the demographics that tend to use the net the least. According to Office for National Statistics figures, these include over-75s and people with disabilities, while Northern Ireland finds itself some way behind other regions of the UK for internet usership.

    It should be noted that all these demographics are using the web more by the year, however, and while there may be something quaint and liberating about disconnecting oneself, there are concerns that the ever-decreasing number of non-users may be getting left behind in terms of access to resources. A good example of this is the Ken Loach film “I, Daniel Blake”, where the title character is laid off from work due to ill health, but Jobcentre Plus regulations require him to apply for employment even though he is not able to work. This is made all the more difficult by the fact that he has no experience of using a computer, only for the Jobcentre to unhelpfully point out to him that they are “digital by default”.

    So ideally, we want these people to start using the internet, but how can we make it easier for them? Here are some ideas:

    Keep it simple

    I’ve noticed many independent grocery stores, like greengrocers and butchers, have set up simple brochure websites. Many of these have no shopping basket facility – they are simply a list of the products they sell and their prices, and a phone number to call to place an order.

    Having a shopping basket is great and convenient for most of us, but some people may find ordering online confusing, or have reservations about its security, so give customers the option to phone up and order the old-fashioned way.

    Use SEO

    If you were to give a novice internet user a long URL, there’s every chance they could struggle to use it. The address bar on an internet browser isn’t like a search engine, and it only takes one letter or hyphen to be out of place for the user to be frustrated.

    Instead of reading out URLs or printing them on posters in shop windows, encourage your shoppers to go to Google and search for the name of your store. Obviously, you’ll need to make sure you are ranking first for the search term, which is where a search engine optimisation (SEO) campaign can help.

    Consider accessibility

    As we’ve mentioned, disabled adults tend to use the internet less, and that may be because sadly, most sites are not built with them in mind. We’ve written before on how visually impaired people use the internet, and how tools like text-to-speech and screen readers can help, but these depend on a well-formatted site if they are to work. Many of the techniques that can help these tools are good practice for building websites anyway, such as making sites easy to navigate and offering a good desktop and mobile experience.

    If a significant number of your customers happen to have disabilities, such as if you sell mobility aids or care services, you may want to go a little further. The website for the Disability Resource Centre, for example, has a range of “Accessibility Tools” that can be clicked to help the user explore the site, such as increasing or decreasing the text size, converting the site to greyscale and underlining all links.

    Whether we’ve been using the internet for decades or are just starting out, we all appreciate intuitive web design and ease of use. If you’re looking to branch out with a website, we can build a user-friendly, affordable website for you, with SEO and accessible layout in mind. Why not talk to us at Engage Web today?

    John Murray
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