Designing for Millennials
Millennials are currently the largest generational cohort in the United States, making up more than 30% of America’s workforce. The generation dubbed the “me me me generation” by Time Magazine, who lived through two financial crises and a horrific live terror attack, have now settled down, found successful careers, and have immense buying power—an estimated $4 trillion in 2020 alone.
Millennials are fiercely loyal to brands they love, are willing to pay more for well-made products, and love to buy online. Designing for Millennials should be a top consideration for companies bringing products to market today.
In a previous post, Designing Apps for Different Generations, we looked broadly at how your generation influences your relationship to technology throughout your lifetime. Each generation has shared experiences during their formative years that help to shape collective values. These values, in turn, influence motivations, preferences, and expectations when it comes to technology. As you develop products aimed at this generation, understanding these values can provide insights to consider when designing for Millennials.
Background on Millennials
Millennials, born between 1981 and 1996, experienced an upbringing unlike any other in history. The oldest Millennials spent their childhoods in a pre-Digital world, but this generation was quickly characterized by the rise of the internet, the dot com boom, and the surge of technological advancements that came along with it. Also called “digital natives,” Millennials have been fundamentally shaped by technology regarding how they learn, work, socialize, buy, communicate, and play. The internet became the trusted authority for learning and information and is crucial to how Millennials approach solving problems. This sudden disruption has caused a disconnect between Millennials and previous generations.
Millennials & Technology
Millennials are a highly tech-savvy group dependent on tech in many facets of their lives. This demographic is the first group to be connected to their peers and leverage their social media networks for many purposes. Social media helps them stay in touch, join with brands and companies, access news, ask for peer recommendations, and even connect to job opportunities, to name only a few. They value their lifestyles and relationships first and make life and career decisions based on those factors.
When it comes to communication, Millennials prefer text messaging or direct messages over a phone call. In the workplace, platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow teams to connect and collaborate remotely and in real-time, giving Millennials the work/life balance they desire. Generally, Millennials are more open-minded and civic-oriented than previous generations thanks to access to diverse worldviews on their Internet browser. Collectively, this group wants to have an impact and contribute to the greater good—70% of Millennials volunteer regularly.
Digital Products for Millennials
This generation has grown up with the internet at their disposal, and they expect transparency from companies and their products. They know quickly if something is providing value, and if they’re not sure, they’ve created a system of accountability through ratings, reviews, and online forums that will tell them.
When Millennials reached a prime spending age, there was a shift in the way that Millennials spent their money compared to previous generations. Millennials place a high value on experiences over things, which led them to leverage technology to fuel the experience economy. In short—Millennials are ditching the fast cars and expensive purses their parents purchased upon adulthood, preferring to spend money on concerts, events, travel, and more. Digital products would do well to recognize their desire for connection, fun, and flexibility and provide a solution that enhances their real life.
Considerations When Designing for Millennials
When it comes to designing digital products and content for Millennials, keep these considerations in mind:
Speak Their Language
Speaking the Millennial language is both a messaging and experience consideration.
Consider Byte, an at-home teeth-straightening system similar to Invisalign, which originated in the mid-90s. Byte has identified Millennials as their target audience and makes it clear through their messaging. Clever copywriting hits on the Millennial desire to work from home and customize their experience, even backing it up with a review that hits on Millennial-beloved products and pop culture.
In addition, a digital product can define its user experience so it effectively communicates to the right audience. Millennials have been through the full evolution of digital experiences, so they instinctively recognize and act upon smooth interactions. With a single gesture, they’ll be quick to close an app or ditch a digital cart if they start to sense a stickiness in the product or in the offerings themselves.
A company that wishes to speak the Millennial language needs to deliver upon the digital interactions they’ve come to expect. Instant and transparent communication with your user is key—like delivering an automated email after purchase. Companies wanting to encourage brand loyalty can go a step further in creating digital moments of delight that will stick with Millennials: free or two-day shipping, reward programs, loyalty points, free flights, and personal assistance are examples of the personalized shopping experience millennials seek.
Millennials have integrated technology into almost every facet of their lives, but recognize their limits. They make a conscious effort to spend time away from their phone. In a world that capitalizes on every minute you spend within a platform, a digital product can spark loyalty by showing Millennial users it complements or adds to their quality of life.
Let’s consider a few ways that companies are incorporating Millennials’ desire to have control over their time and digital energy.
Instagram users can monitor the time spent looking at their feed. A chart breaks down daily usage and lets users set a daily reminder or time limit before receiving a notification from the app. Android and Apple have similar system settings abilities that encourage digital time-outs.
Dating app Hinge targets a Millennial audience—even more specifically, an audience who wants to find someone special and settle down (unlike Tinder). In its recent “Designed to be Deleted” campaign, its tone of voice is optimistic—sending its dating pool the message that they ultimately want you off the app and in a relationship.
Consider some of the small design and messaging considerations Hinge implemented in their successful dating app to drive the message home:
- Illustrated characters and animations that erase UI elements
- Use of casual, optimistic tone of voice
- Friendly color palettes, round UI elements
- App-icon characters that emphasize the “deleting” message
Access vs. Ownership
Millennials kicked off their adult life at the start of the Great Recession. In contrast to their baby boomer parents—Millennials aren’t looking to have a vacation house by age 40. They might not own homes at all. Millennials prioritize personal and professional growth as keystones of success. This group is trying to maximize time and resources to live a full, healthy, happy life—using technology along the way. Millennials are getting married later, renting longer, and have been a pivotal part of creating the gig and share economies.
To Millennials, access is often better than ownership. The flexibility and breadth of experiences offered by on-demand apps like Spotify, Lyft, Netflix, Rent the Runway, and countless other products have permanently rewired Millennials' expectations and preferences.
Concluding Thoughts on Designing for Millennials
These ideas can give you a sense of the necessary nuance required in designing apps for a Millennial audience. Taking their needs and preferences into account when developing a product can significantly broaden your market potential.
Many digital products have the potential to be solutions for users spanning multiple generations, so there is a lot to consider. In addition to our free guide—Designing Digital Products for Every Generation—we've highlighted key takeaways on designing digital products for Gen Z, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.
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If you’re looking to build a custom application, there are many different questions to ask an iOS app development company. Still, one of the most common questions we receive about the development process is whether we recommend building both iOS and Android versions of an app simultaneously or just one at a time. And if app development for each platform occurs at different times, should iOS development or Android development come first? We touch on this question in Chapter 3 of our book InspiringApps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile Apps, but we will provide more insight on this debated topic here. Should we develop iOS & Android at the same time? When feasible in mobile app development, we recommend picking a single platform to start with rather than developing for both simultaneously. You may not have that luxury if you’re developing an app to release to consumers who all need to have the mobile app at the same time—perhaps in conjunction with a film or other product release. If it’s possible, though, we think one at a time in the development process is better because it will enable you to learn from your customers on the first platform. Unless a mobile app is extremely simple, it will go through several iterations before it offers the desired experience. Trying to manage learnings across both iOS devices and Android devices is cumbersome. Instead, the feedback and refinements from the first platform can be leveraged to speed mobile app development on the second platform, saving both time and money in producing across mobile devices. What factors should we consider in picking an OS? When advising customers whether to focus on Android development or iOS app development first, we consider these factors to help guide the decision. Industry & Demographics You may find an industry bias for operating systems (OS) that affects your project. For instance, we found iOS devices more prevalent in medical applications, while Android app development seems more prevalent in construction. If you don’t have industry insight, try checking your website’s analytics to determine user platforms. Trends might help decide what type of platform may be best suited. You can also use sites similar to Mixpanel to discover applications and software that would be more suited to that platform. If one platform is used far more than the other, you know a preference exists and should develop accordingly. Likewise, depending on the market you are serving, you may also find that age-related differences affect whether you should focus on iOS app development or Android app development first. Market Share For app developers who intend to produce mobile applications for the general public and do not know the OS preference of their target audience, these market considerations may provide some guidance: In the United States, the market share of both iOS and Android has stayed just about constant over the past year, hovering at or around 60% and 40%, respectively. In Europe, the UK, Asia, and many other countries, Android has had a higher market share than iOS. Android maintained its lead in global market share capturing around 70% in August of 2022. Android devices have captured most of the global market share for many years. Google provides free, open-source software that manufacturers can install on their smartphone devices. Because of the large number of Android users and the lower cost of Android devices to consumers, Android developers are at an advantage in many markets. Unquestionably, Android is the world’s most popular smartphone OS. However, Apple has a powerful brand, particularly in the US, where Apple's ecosystem, stable OS, and device durability enable iOS to keep large numbers of active and premium smartphone users. OS Adoption Rates & Upgrade Complexity Apple has a remarkable track record of getting iOS users to upgrade to current versions of its OS, whereas Android adoption is much slower: As of May this year, 89% of users are on the current iOS. As much as 60% of users keep older versions of Android on their phones. Apple handles the distribution of its iOS updates exclusively. Developing for and supporting a smaller number of OS versions on Apple devices leads to quicker builds, faster testing, and more straightforward support in the long run for iOS developers. Google only gives direct updates to its products, like the Pixel series. Other manufacturers like Samsung must first get the update from Google and optimize it for Android devices before they can send it to Android users. Some mobile carriers also go through updates before distribution, too. Android developers may have to deliver more app fixes as a result. Speed & Ease of Development & Publishing Speed and ease of development and publishing are not as cut and dry in terms of pros and cons. Android pros include: The Android platform enables a more flexible development environment. Because Windows, Mac OS, and Linux all support Java—which Android relies on—Android developers can build Android apps on various machines. Google Play allows developers to publish multiple versions of the same app (alpha and beta) to ensure developers can test the app live, fix bugs, and launch it to a broader audience. However, developing and maintaining apps is generally more time-consuming for Android than for iOS: Whereas iOS developers build for a limited type of device (iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch), Android accessibility to a wide range of devices means more devices to test and support. Google has become less lenient and more time-consuming towards apps that developers want to post on Google Play, narrowing the line between ease of publishing on Google Play vs. the App Store. And through TestFlight, Apple does support previewing versions of an app with up to a thousand beta testers before releasing it for wide distribution in the Apple App Store. Development Cost & Profit Opportunities Cost and profit will vary depending on the type and complexity of the app you’re developing; still, Android apps are generally more expensive to create than iOS apps are for iPhones. Overall, Android users tend to favor free apps and spend less on in-app purchases than iOS users, which can lead to higher sources of profit on iOS, not accounting for market differences. Should we develop for iOS or Android first? If you’ve considered all the above factors, and neither platform is the clear winner, we’d recommend starting with iOS for a US-focused app. Our reasons are speed to market, lower development cost, and revenue generation potential. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss your particular situation or have other questions on this topic. We’d love to hear from you.
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Boulder, CO—InspiringApps, a premier web and mobile app development company, is proud to be Certified™ by Great Place to Work® for the second year in a row. The prestigious award is based entirely on what current employees say about their experience as part of InspiringApps’ team. This year, 92% of employees said it’s a great place to work—35% higher than employees at a typical US-based company. InspiringApps recently celebrated its 15th birthday. Over the years, its leaders have rolled out various initiatives to boost employee engagement and retention. Listening to employee feedback is a big part of that. For example, team feedback as a result of last year’s Great Place to Work survey created IA Commits, pairing inspiring not-for-profit clients with developers who can use a hand-up early in their software career. “InspiringApps wouldn’t be what it is today without our amazing people,” said Brad Weber, CEO and President of InspiringApps. “InspiringApps is better because of the people who work here. We are all passionate about our craft and united in our goal to make a real difference in the world.” According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits, and have a fair chance at promotion. “Great Place to Work Certification™ isn’t something that comes easily—it takes ongoing dedication to the employee experience,” said Sarah Lewis-Kulin, Vice President of Global Recognition at Great Place to Work. “It’s the only official recognition determined by employees’ real-time reports of their company culture. Earning this designation means that InspiringApps is one of the best companies to work for in the country.” About InspiringApps App development that makes an impact. InspiringApps builds digital products that help companies impact their employees, customers, and communities. Yes, we build web, mobile, and custom apps, but what we offer is something above and beyond that. What we offer is inspiration. Our award-winning work has included 200+ apps since the dawn of the iPhone. Our core values: integrity, respect, commitment, inclusivity, and empathy. Our guarantee: finish line, every time, for every project. About Great Place to Work® Certification™ Great Place to Work® Certification™ is the most definitive “employer-of-choice” recognition that companies aspire to achieve. It is the only recognition based entirely on what employees report about their workplace experience—specifically, how consistently they experience a high-trust workplace. Great Place to Work Certification is recognized worldwide by employees and employers alike and is the global benchmark for identifying and recognizing outstanding employee experience. Every year, more than 10,000 companies across 60 countries apply to get Great Place to Work-Certified. About Great Place to Work® Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture. Since 1992, they have surveyed more than 100 million employees worldwide and used those deep insights to define what makes a great workplace: trust. Their employee survey platform empowers leaders with the feedback, real-time reporting, and insights they need to make data-driven people decisions. Everything they do is driven by the mission to build a better world by helping every organization become a great place to work For All™. Learn more at greatplacetowork.com and on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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