How Age Affects Your Time Online

3 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar
A while back we reported about a Nielsen Online study that revealed that people are spending more time, as in actual time, reading the news online. We speculated of course as to what this indicated. Did it mean people are slow readers, or do they get preoccupied and prone to leave browser windows open? Well, according to new research, it could just mean that we're old. It's not pretty, but it may be true. As we get older, online users tend to lose their savvy and what once took us seconds to process, now takes us longer. Before you despair, there are two different ways to look at this.

We're Not Getting Older, We're Making Better Decisions

A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulated centers in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning. Such action could be helping to counteract the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down. Along with crossword puzzles, "surfing the web" as it was once referred to, may have the same impact -- to keep the brain active. When users underwent brain scans, performing web search tasks produced significant additional activity in separate areas of the brain which control decision-making and complex reasoning. However, that activity was limited to those who were experienced web users.

We're Getting Older and Slower

According to Jakob Nielsen's latest research, online users between the ages of 25 and 60 --mainstream users as they are called -- increase their time needed to complete website tasks by 0.8% per year. In other words, a 40-year-old user will take 8% longer than a 30-year-old user to accomplish the same task. And a 50-year-old user will require an additional 8% more time. Take as much time as you need to process that last statement. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be at a snail's pace by 60, so long as you started using the Web at a relatively younger age. Yet, the factors involved in the slowing process are centered around age. Let's face it, the memory starts to go, type faces get harder to read and we need more time to make sure we understand all the necessary information. Though Nielsen admits that there's not a whole lot that web design can do to counteract the aging process, he does recommend including a variety of ages in your testing group. So, even if we need a bit more time to read and understand online content, we can take stock that we are working to increase our brain activity.