Designing for Baby Boomers
Designing for Baby Boomers should be a consideration for companies bringing products to market today. Why? While soon to be surpassed by Millennials, the Baby Boomer generation is currently the nation’s largest living generation—and one with considerable buying power.
In a previous post, Designing Apps for Different Generations, we looked broadly at how the generation in which we were born influences our relationship to technology throughout our 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 are developing products aimed for this generation, understanding these values can provide insights to consider when designing for Baby Boomers.
Some Background on Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers, born between 1946-1964, have experienced a remarkable evolution of technology in their lifetime. In their earliest years, Boomers, unlike any other generation before, were watching major political events unfold on TV. As teens, they experienced the Vietnam War and saw their President go through the Watergate scandal. In their 20s, SNL was in its heyday, the 24-hour news cycle had started on CNN, and Reagan was elected. Towards the end of their formative years, in 1984, they saw the release of the first personal computer. From there, the progression of technology has continued to unfold even more rapidly.
Baby boomers are currently ages 56-74. Younger Boomers remain very active and are still working, pursuing their passions, and spending money on their kids and grandchildren. As their kids are moving out, they are starting to gain independence and time—which they fill by volunteering, rediscovering old hobbies, or caring for aging parents. While retirement age is approaching, their lack of savings, underestimated health costs, and debt put retirement way out of reach for many.
In contrast, older Boomers are retired and trying to maintain their lifestyle without working. While they might claim to be healthy, many are not, and they’re turning to tech to maintain their quality of life. Their increasing health issues and dwindling savings make downsizing an attractive option. Most Boomers are very involved in their grandkids’ lives and are close with their Millennial kids. Collectively, Boomers seek to age gracefully by valuing health, embracing new businesses and hobbies, and prioritizing family.
Baby Boomers & Technology
Boomers are online a LOT. Baby boomers spend 27 hours per week online, which is 2 hours more per week than those who are between 16 and 34. They want to stay connected, and they’re practical. A majority of boomers are using smartphones, and they’re certainly likely to be using tablets. While they are on mobile, the desktop experience is also important and cannot be ignored for Boomers.
When it comes to online behaviors that drive action, search dramatically outperforms Boomer’s use of social media or viewing online videos. On social, boomers use Facebook far more than any other social media platform—to keep in touch with friends and family, get their opinions out there, and ask for recommendations or advice. Boomers are often on apps because their kids or grandkids are, so don’t be surprised to see some Boomers also active on ‘younger’ platforms like Snapchat.
As consumers, Boomers are using tech to make purchasing decisions; however, they tend to do more price comparisons than reading reviews. Boomers shop online just as frequently as millennials, and actually outspend them, as they tend to buy at a higher price point. More so than younger generations, Boomers still care about in-store experiences.
Considerations When Designing for Baby Boomers
With this information in mind, we’ve identified four key considerations to keep in mind when designing for Baby Boomers.
Thoughtfully Design for Them
As basic as this may sound, the most important consideration is to actually take into consideration the Baby Boomers! The tech industry obviously skews younger and will continue to do so as time goes on. So, Millennial and Gen Z designers who make up the workforce need to consciously make an effort to include Baby Boomers during product development, testing, and feedback stages. Boomers are largely ignored in marketing and design considerations, as companies primarily look to target Millennials and Gen Z. Given that this generation will maintain significant purchasing power for many years to come, it’s worth the effort to consciously consider how to design products that are inclusive of their preferences and needs.
Design in Ways That Acknowledge & Ease the Effects of Aging
Baby Boomers have never been afraid of adopting tech, especially if it means gaining independence or control over the aging process. It makes sense to consider the areas in which Boomers will need to adapt; their fitness or social habits, for example. But beyond that, there are problems that they might begin to encounter that digital products need to consider. Changes in memory and eyesight can leave boomers feeling frustrated, and such frustrations can be mitigated by thoughtful design choices. For example, easy-to-use voice and chatbot technology can alleviate the need to read small print.
While many Baby Boomers are game to adopt new technology, they may be slower to understand the ever-evolving changes. So, when designing for Baby Boomers, it is more important than ever to know and empathize with their user journeys. Utilizing familiar UX patterns and introducing features gradually over time are easy ways to help.
While initial onboarding procedures are a great way to ease Boomer users into your product’s experience, there are other ways to lead your user outside of the initial download. Get feedback from your older users and consider updating features they don’t understand. Throughout their user journey, provide reminders and cues for habitual actions, but allow for greater time before notification alerts. Incorporating mindful hints and interactions will go a long way when designing for Baby Boomers, but are sure to help your users across the board.
Design To Help Them Maintain a Quality of Life
Boomers see the potential for technology to help them remain independent. For example, they’re interested in gaining the peace of mind that comes with wearables that monitor health concerns like heart rate and blood pressure, as well as IoT devices that make tasks around the home easier.
Boomers increasingly prize practicality as they eye the future. Designing tech that makes everyday tasks easier for them, or allows them access to information will go a long way with Boomers.
Design To Help Foster Connection
Baby Boomers have a closeness with their family units not experienced by any other generation before. The events of 9/11 helped drive a closeness between boomers and their Millennial kids that is carrying over to their connections with their grandkids. Boomers love to stay connected with their families with apps and appreciate apps that incorporate ways for them to share and connect with their loved ones.
As you’re developing products, keep in mind ways to incorporate sharing and communication within the app or digital product. Is there a way to help your target audience connect with the ones they love? For example, many health apps can include multiple users, like the Memo Health reminder app that notifies caregivers when their loved ones have missed a pill. That’s a huge pain point for caregivers solved with creative connection.
Concluding Thoughts on Designing for Baby Boomers
Hopefully, we’ve given you a sense of some of the key considerations when designing for Baby Boomers. While they have some unique needs relative to some of the younger, more tech-savvy generations, they are open and excited for the benefits that digital products offer them. Taking their needs and preferences into account when developing a product can significantly broaden your market potential.
Many digital products can potentially be solutions for users spanning multiple generations, so there is much 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 Alpha, Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and for all.
If you have questions or concerns about designing for Baby Boomers—or any other generation—we would be happy to consult with you free of charge. Get in touch with us today!
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As you develop products aimed at this generation, understanding these values can provide insights to consider when designing for Gen Alpha. Gen Alpha Background If you can bet on any generation making big waves, it’s Generation Alpha. Born in the 21st century from 2010-2025, they’re the largest generation and most likely to live the longest. Gen Alphas are also predicted to be the most educated and wealthiest generation of all time. Born into a global pandemic, this generation has become increasingly immersed in technology and digital experiences. As a result, Gen Alphas seek authentic communication and connection more than ever. Unlike their Millennial parents, Gen Alphas frequent platforms like TikTok, Instagram Live, Houseparty, Clubhouse, and similar platforms. AI is part of their daily lives, and they frequently use technologies like Siri and Alexa (among others) from an early age. Due to shorter attention spans in our increasingly digitalized world, short, easily digestible content is imperative. Creativity and innovation are common themes among this brilliant and up-and-coming generation. This demographic has a tremendous amount of earning potential. They like to think out of the box, are incredibly technologically savvy, and value the importance of social causes. They tend to place a high value on climate change and inclusivity. Gen Alpha is a passionate group that desires to help others and improve the world around them. Gen Alpha & Technology Generation Alpha is immersed in a world of technology. According to McCrindle, Gen Alpha has more screen time than previous generations. The pandemic has only intensified technology use. With few places to go, Gen Alpha kids turned to their screens to combat their inner loneliness. One must design with authentic influence to bridge the gap between digital technology and the human experience. Gen Alpha is tired of the manufactured experience and is looking for a genuine connection that speaks to them personally. They tend to have short attention spans and are interested in fast-paced, easily-consumable media content. Due to the plethora of information available to this modern generation, Gen Alpha believes strongly in the power of data and is greatly influenced by it. Gen Alphas are enthusiastic about documenting and sharing their own content and like interacting with others digitally. Influencers can profoundly impact their purchasing decisions. Gen Alphas want customizable, meaningful digital experiences that bring them value and uplift their daily life. Considerations When Designing for Gen Alpha Authentic Influence Niche content creators greatly influence Generation Alpha. That said, this generation is bombarded with influencers and advertisements. We can expect Gen Alpha to distrust brands that seem phony or don’t have their best interests at heart. Similarly, they will likely reject traditional forms of marketing much as their Millennial parents did. Authentic influence is critical for gaining the trust of Generation Alpha. Gen Alphas are looking for genuine connections with brands that align with their values. Raw, real-life experiences, humanized messaging, and value-based technology will be best received best by Gen Alphas. In short—less curated experiences and more authenticity. Having concentrated human-centric features will dramatically shape the Gen Alpha’s user experience. Return on User Experience Gen Alphas invest in experiences that enrich their lives and, in turn, have high expectations for all elements of their experience. The level of transparency of taking the customer on the journey from start to finish will significantly benefit this generation. They want an immersive experience with the entire process demonstrated to them, not just a cherry-picked, glamorous experience. 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Brands looking to engage with this audience must embody and foster inclusive and accepting environments. As the most diverse generation, brands can build trust by representing their consumers authentically. Here are some questions to consider when designing for Gen Alpha: What are the demographic and psychographics of the country? How can you reduce our imprint on the environment and create a more sustainable solution? Where are there additional opportunities for broader representation? Concluding Thoughts on Designing for Gen Alpha Taking Gen Alphas’ background, needs, and technological preferences into account will help broaden your app’s reach and market potential. Many digital products can potentially be solutions for users spanning multiple generations, so there is much 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, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, and for all. 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