Designing Apps for Different Generations
The generation in which we were born influences many things in our lives, including our relationship with technology. As a result, it’s valuable to consider generational demographics as you design and develop your app.
We’ve written before about market considerations for app development, noting the importance of defining your product vision and objectives prior to launching into any technical work. One of the most critical items to pinpoint is your target user—the person for whom your app solves a problem or meets a need.
The work to understand a target user is typically called customer segmentation. Customer segmentation is a strategic process of identifying a narrowed customer base with similar differentiators—demographic, geographic, behavioral, etc. The process not only helps your marketing efforts but also allows you to better understand the behaviors and expectations your customers will have when using your product.
In this post, we are exploring a key demographic factor almost any project will want to consider: age. Currently, the market landscape is primarily made up of four generations with wildly different backgrounds and experiences in technology. Not surprisingly, each one has different motivations, preferences, and expectations when it comes to using technology. We've written a free guide on How to Design Digital Products for Every Generation. In this article, we'll highlight a few key background and behaviors factors to consider when creating an app for each generation.
The Baby Boomers (Born 1946-1964)
Baby Boomers, currently 55-73 years old, have personally witnessed a remarkable evolution of technology—TVs became common in homes only shortly after many of them were born. A defining experience for the Baby Boomer generation was the Vietnam War years, which caused this group to collectively value human rights and individual freedom like never before. Privacy and security concerns remain paramount when it comes to technology, and they are hesitant to give out personal information. This generation grew up having to leave the house to find entertainment and social interaction, and they highly value community as a result.
While Boomers still prefer to communicate face-to-face or with a telephone call, they’ve certainly adapted to the technology younger generations are using—utilizing smartphones, texting, online shopping, and social media to achieve their goals. In fact, a 2017 report from KPMG found that Baby Boomers shopped online just as frequently as Millennials, and actually outspent them, as they tend to buy items at a higher price point. While younger generations are leaving Facebook in favor of other social platforms—often quipping “Facebook is for old people”—Baby Boomers continue to increase in numbers and engagement on the platform. A study by Fractl showed that Baby Boomers are 19% more likely than other groups to share content on Facebook daily.
Designing Apps for the Baby Boomer Generation
There are several takeaways to consider when designing and developing products targeted at the Baby Boomer generation. While the demographic is certainly open to new technology, they need a straightforward user experience that won’t cause them to stumble when first using the app. Employing well-known interactions and common UI elements will allow them to connect intuitively with your digital product, and increase your chances of retention.
Additionally, products that provide transparency when it comes to how they’re collecting and using data will go a long way with Boomers. These users are currently concerned with housing, medical support, security, independence, and quality of life and are responsive to products that can offer them value in these areas. They’re aging gracefully, and looking for products that help them to personalize their experience when it comes to their diet, fitness, and lifestyle options.
In this article, we identify additional key considerations to keep in mind when designing apps for Baby Boomers.
Gen X (Born 1965-1976)
Generation X, currently 39-54 years old, spans the smallest number of years. While this generation can at times be overlooked, there are many reasons that make this age group crucial to the digital product landscape. This generation holds the greatest spending power at this point in time, as they are both raising Gen Z children and taking care of Baby Boomer parents. Many Gen Xers find themselves within the busiest period of their lives—beyond family considerations, they are hitting the peak of their careers and making the investments that will serve them long-term.
Generation X grew up in the midst of Watergate, the Reagan era, the end of the Cold War, and directly before the rise of computers and the explosion of internet technology. The generation is skeptical and pragmatic by nature and will take the time to ask questions and feel confident in their decisions. In a lot of ways, they share qualities with their neighboring generations. From their Baby Boomer parents, Gen X inherited their work ethic and practical nature. They also still appreciate face-to-face interactions, whether in their social life or when it comes to purchasing.
However, their digital habits are more closely aligned with the Millennials generation. They’re highly connected through mobile phones and on social platforms. Indeed, many of them were early adopters and continue to embrace technology at the same pace. The greatest difference is that Gen Xers remember a time of life without technology, and consequentially don’t use it in every facet of their lives. For example, Gen X is less likely to create or cultivate social relationships using technology than Millennials.
Designing Apps for Generation X
When designing and developing for Generation X users, it’s important to keep in mind that these users are value-driven—weighing factors like cost, time, and energy simultaneously. Skip the fluff, and deliver relevant and straightforward information, design, and solutions to this demographic and you’ll find this generation with the highest brand loyalty to be customers for life.
Learn about the design and development considerations you’ll need to navigate when designing digital products for a Generation X audience.
Millennials or Gen Y (Born 1977-1995)
Millennials, currently 23-38 years old, experienced an upbringing unlike any other in history. While they initially learned how to do things “the old way,” the 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 when it comes to how they learn, work, socialize, buy, communicate, and play. The internet became the trusted authority when it comes to learning and information, and crucial to the way Millennials approach solving problems. Because of this, there is a disconnect between Millennials and previous generations as they disrupt the way things have been done.
Millennials are an extremely tech-savvy group of individuals that are dependent on tech in many facets of their lives. This demographic is the first group to be connected to their peers at all times and they leverage their social media networks for many purposes. Social media helps them stay in touch, connect 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 off of those.
When it comes to communication, Millennials prefer to communicate using text messaging or direct messages over a phone call. In the workplace, platforms like Slack allow teams to connect and collaborate remotely and in real time, allowing Millennials the flexibility they desire in creating their work/life balance. Millennials are more open minded and civic oriented than previous generations. Collectively, this group wants to have an impact and contribute to a greater good. As the largest generation in the US labor force, they already have and will continue to do so.
Designing Apps for Millennials
Millennials place a high value on experiences over things, causing them to leverage technology to make it work for them. Digital products would do well to recognize their desire for connection and flexibility and provide a solution that enhances their real life. 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 it comes to design and development considerations, these users can intuitively interact with digital products, so keep the main focus on the value you are providing, but have fun with it. They are the early adopters of technology and will continue to be adaptable as tech evolves.
Learn more about how to design digital products for Millennials here.
Gen Z (Born 1996-TBD)
These new kids on the block, currently 0-22 years old, are the first generation to grow up with the internet around for their entire lifetime—and it shows. Having grown up with the ability to learn at their fingertips, they’re a highly educated and independent group of individuals, many with entrepreneurial goals. With information at their disposal, they expect companies and technology to anticipate their desires and are willing to move on when they don’t deliver. While they may be less loyal than previous generations to businesses and brands, that is not true when it comes to their peers. Gen Z values diversity and equality and is already making waves when it comes to social and political issues.
They’re highly cognizant of their digital brand and its connection to their perceived identity. This generation is always cultivating their online presence and is known to create fake, private accounts to share the “real stuff” with their closest friends, while their curated feeds are meant to appeal to the masses. They might buy their Instagram followers to make them look more popular, after reading a positive review about Upleap online. Sharing content is second-nature to them and is certainly a functionality they’ve grown to expect from digital products.
Designing Apps for Gen Z
While tongue-in-cheek, the popular phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” is said for a reason. Apps targeted at Gen Z would do well to consider how their users can share and interact with others on the platform, or else risk their users asking “what’s the point?” Gen Z users are willing to provide information in exchange for a more personalized experience. For example, these users will have no problem logging in to a new app using their Instagram or Twitter credentials, if it results in a better experience by automatically being connected to their contacts and interests. Gen Z is accustomed to tailored technology and will continue to expect predictive technology to be as reliable and adaptable as they are.
Learn the key insights and considerations to keep in mind when developing digital products aimed at Gen Z.
Gen Alpha (Born 2010-2025)
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.
Designing Apps for Generation Alpha
As the most diverse generation, Gen Alphas are exceedingly innovative, creative, and forward-thinking—with tremendous earning potential.
Developing technology for this demographic will require providing authentic influence through meaningful connections. Deliver an interactive user experience from start to finish. Gen Alphas prefer to see raw and genuine content. Social causes matter greatly to Gen Alphas, and it’s essential to prioritize combatting social issues.
Learn expert insights and considerations to keep in mind when designing an app for Gen Alpha.
Concluding Thoughts on Designing Apps for Different Generations
We’ve written a complete and free guide on How To Design Digital Products for Every Generation. Whether you’re designing apps for different generations or for all, we share key insights to inform and maximize the value your digital solution provides to your users.
Please contact us if you have questions about how generational demographics might impact your app development project.
Download our free development guide
Generation Z is a brilliant and forward-thinking generation making a progressive transformation in the world as we know it. Following behind Millennials, they are heavily immersed in the technical landscape and are highly app savvy. They were born into a world of expansion and innovation with creations like the Apple iPhone and Facebook. Having grown up with the ability to access knowledge at the tap of their fingertips, they’re educated individuals with great entrepreneurial goals. They expect companies to anticipate their needs and will move on when they don’t deliver. They’re looking for flawless app design, fast iterations, responsible data collection, creative outlets, and more. Some Facts About Generation Z Born between 1997 and 2012, they’re in the era of self-discovery. Since their youth, Gen Z parents have been navigating the rise of technology and the online privacy issues that come with it; for Gen Z, finding their true selves is no easy task. Due to their immense media consumption, they expect instant gratification and high-speed delivery. As the “mobile generation,” 96% of Gen Zers are reported to own a cellphone—many spend 10 hours plus connected online. They frequent social platforms like Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, Twitch, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and other platforms. Gen Zers gravitate to mobile banking apps to serve their financial needs and streamline their tasks. Consequently, email is slowly dying out among this community of users. Generation Z interacts with apps in their lives as a means of communication, to fill a need in their life, and for play and creative expression. They are true digital natives and are hyper-connected to the world around them—making them increasingly self-aware and emotionally reflective. Generation Z also reports high rates of anxiety, depression, and mental challenges—more so than in past generations. Experiencing a global pandemic has only exasperated their mental health struggles. Consequently, prioritizing and addressing mental health is of great importance. Take Oye—a creative wellness app created by singer J Balvin “to make the world feel better.” It’s an app to transform your emotions into creative actions with mind-body practices, daily emotional check-in tools, personalized goal setting, and mindful notifications. Gen Z has proven to be catalyzed citizens who want to make a difference through social responsibility. Their innate understanding of the power of social networks and their regular consumption of news and information has allowed Gen Z to move past the era of Millennial armchair activism. While navigating life in today’s world, Gen Z confidently prioritizes experiences over objects. Considerations in App Development for Generation Z The Generation Z cohort is a significant target for app developers. Being born and raised in the digital age, they are always looking for novel tech to explore. Generation Z represents much larger historical forces at play, driving progressive transformation in the workplace that will redefine the entire generational experience. As a result, this generation has experienced increased globalization, technological advancements, and a fast-paced influx of information. Generation Z is changing the way we build digital experiences. Generation Z is the first generation to merge the digital and physical worlds into one experience. They view the internet as more than just a transaction and instead see it as a human experience. What that means for development is creating intuitive experiences that Gen Zers will love—innovative, straightforward, and seamless. With this information in mind, we’ve identified vital considerations to keep in mind when developing digital products for Generation Z. What Gen Z Consumers Want in An App Obsessively Tested, Flawless Design Gen Zers value efficiency and flawless design. That is why thorough testing and gaining user feedback are paramount. Be sure to ask for feedback from this generation and integrate the user input throughout your app’s development process and in updates. “If the designer doesn’t remove themself and try to see the user’s perspective, they can overly complicate the journey.” AARON LEA, ART DIRECTOR AT INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO Glitchy user interface behaviors and poor design choices are instant turnoffs for Gen Zers. Make your app seamless and flawless from the start, or you may lose your customer. Build your app with swift and straightforward interactions, and don’t reinvent the wheel for every feature within your product—draw inspiration from apps that are already working. By sticking with best practices and standard features and anticipating your users’ desires, your users will navigate more intuitively and stick around for more. Fast Iterations Gen Z consumers have grown up in a fast-paced digital world and value convenience and efficiency. They prefer mobile apps that offer quick and uninterrupted experiences, such as fast loading times, easy checkout processes, and streamlined workflows. Keep your app low on data—fast to download and delete. Control Over Their Digital Footprint Gen Zers quickly went from a private world to everything constantly being shared online. In their formative years, they grew up with little technology at their disposal. They were thrust into a world of hyper-technology and interconnectedness as time progressed. With that in mind, here are essential factors to keep at the forefront of your app development: Privacy Settings Gen Z should be able to manage their privacy settings on apps. This type of functionality includes having the ability to choose whether their information is shared publicly or only with specific individuals and having the option to limit the usage of their personal data. Data Transparency Gen Z should have clear access and information about what data is collected, how it’s used, and to whom it gets shared. Responsible Data Collection It’s essential to ensure that Gen Zers’ personal data is protected from data breaches and cyber threats. Apps should implement robust security practices to keep user data safe. Value-Add Through Personalization You can add value with personalization by using various technologies, such as saving login information, geolocation, machine learning, and AI, to cater to the specific needs of Gen Z. It is crucial to find a proper balance in incorporating personalization that genuinely adds value, without overdoing it. Here are a few core components to adding value through personalization: Saving Login Information Gen Z is all about convenience, and one way to provide that is by saving their login information. By doing so, you not only save them time but also provide a straightforward user journey. Geolocation Gen Z consumers are constantly on the go and expect a personalized experience based on their location. Using geolocation technology, you can offer tailored recommendations, promotions, and content based on their location. Machine Learning & AI If you want to better understand your Gen Z customers, machine learning can be a potent tool. By analyzing their data, you can personalize their experience and provide the results they seek—before they even ask. AI and machine learning are great tools for automating manual tasks as well. Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in many ways to develop apps for Gen Z. Here are some ways to incorporate ML and AI in your app to improve its performance: Personalized Recommendations: ML algorithms can provide customized recommendations to Gen Z users based on their interests, behaviors, and preferences. Chatbots & Virtual Assistants: With natural language processing (NLP) techniques, it’s now possible to create bots that can interact with Gen Z users in a way that feels just like talking to a real person. Bots can help users with tasks such as scheduling, finding information, or making purchases on their mobile devices. Image & Video Recognition: Computer vision techniques can be used to recognize images and videos, which can be helpful in apps such as social media platforms, gaming, or e-commerce. Predictive Modeling: Predictive modeling techniques can be used to forecast future behaviors and trends. For instance, a news app can predict which articles will be most popular among Gen Z users. Predictive modeling ensures your app stays ahead of the curve. Voice Recognition: Voice recognition techniques can be used to develop voice-enabled apps and devices that can be controlled with voice commands. This technology can be helpful in apps such as virtual assistants, smart home devices, or hands-free gaming. ML and AI can help app developers create more engaging, personalized, and interactive apps for Gen Z users. By leveraging these technologies, app developers can improve the user experience and stay ahead of the competition. Creative Tools More than half of Gen Zers believe they are more creative than previous generations. Most of them engage in creative activities in their free time. Gen Z is a highly creative generation that values individuality and self-expression. Therefore, niche tools enabling creativity are essential for creating apps that resonate with them. Concluding Thoughts on Developing Apps for Gen Z Gen Zers have a unique vantage point when it comes to app development. They’ve experienced the best of both worlds—an era of privacy merged with hyper-connectedness. They are vicarious app consumers, making them ideal customers for app developers. Brands that take the time to understand their Gen Z users’ behaviors, motivations, preferences, and expectations will experience significant growth. Considering the above considerations, one can ensure that their app hits the mark with this brilliant and forward-thinking generation. Gen Z wants more than just an app. They crave a unique experience that fulfills their daily needs and brings joy. The app should leave them feeling special and enhance their well-being. At InspiringApps, we stay on the pulse and ahead of the curve to bring you the most forward-thinking and trending app development insights. If you have any questions or thoughts on the above material—we’d be delighted to connect!
21 days ago
Boulder, CO—In the latest article from Built In Colorado, InspiringApps’ Creative Director, Aaron Lea, shares his advice on creating simplified user journeys within digital products. How To Simplify User Journeys When do you know it’s time to simplify your product’s user journey? When we design digital apps, we’re always looking for ways to simplify the user journey. Limiting the number of interactions users have to make is a best practice for most apps. The more users have to drill down into extra screens, the more likely they are to leave. I like to think of it this way: design the app like you’re in the Target parking lot and about to go inside the store to buy Tide Pods. As a user, I want to be in and out as quickly as possible. A quick exchange that’s easy for me to use means I’m more prone to open the app the next time I’m in that Target parking lot. It’s often the case that apps are downloaded, opened once, and then deleted. These apps are too cluttered, and people won’t reuse them. On the other hand, when users know it doesn’t take too long to accomplish a task—no guided tours they’re more likely to use the app. A simple experience is a successful experience. Unless we’re creating something like TikTok, we aren’t designing the app to keep users in it. We’re here to help users achieve something or access a specific feature. The fewer interactions it takes to accomplish that, the better the journey. What process do you use to identify opportunities for simplification? App design is an art that involves trusting your instincts. I like to think of this process as similar to editing a script. Editors are great at identifying what’s essential and getting rid of clutter. But their real goal is staying true to what makes the script great—and amplifying that by revealing only what needs to be there. For example, an app may have a component that mirrors the functionality of Slack or Youtube. These are established popular apps. And even the best digital products aren’t going to lure people away from them. Any project, whether it’s designing an app or a home improvement project, can be subject to scope creep. Is that feature really needed? Was it added at the last minute? We all get distracted in the creative journey, and the risk is that we keep getting further away from—or even lose sight of—the reason we started, the problem we wanted to solve. We need to stay true to what inspired us in the beginning to create the app. ART DIRECTOR, AARON LEA | INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO What are some common traps designers can fall into that result in an overly complicated user journey? One trap is elevating ego over empathy. If the designer doesn’t remove themself and try to see the user’s perspective, they can overly complicate the journey. Designers must constantly evolve, challenge themselves, and put themselves in others’ shoes. ART DIRECTOR, AARON LEA | INSPIRINGAPPS, BOULDER CO Another trap could be the designer finding a new design tool or method they want to use and deciding to use it in a particular product. Novelty is not a substitute for suitability. A good rule of thumb is, don’t force it if it doesn’t deserve to be there. Sometimes, designers get set in their ways. Just because it worked last time doesn’t mean it will work this time too. Or conversely, designers may reinvent the wheel. If the design worked the first time, there’s no need to rethink it. Time management is critical. With mobile apps, people remember the launch, the middle, and the endpoint. A trap could be spending too much time on incidental interstitial areas. Don’t focus all your time there. Take that time and instead pick the three most vital sections—the app’s beginning, the middle, and its exit—and make those experiences ones that keep users coming back. Meet InspiringApps’ Creative Director Aaron Lea We believe that Inspired Employees Make InspiringApps and that our diverse backgrounds, skills, hobbies, and perspectives are what make us a stronger team. Aaron Lea finds his inspiration steeped in pop culture, a tradition of art in his family, and a creative digital design process that enables him to put novel creations back into the world and inspire others as a result.
1 month ago