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 and Technology
Boomers are online a LOT. Baby boomers spend 27 hours per week online, which is two 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 smart phones, 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 comparison 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 work force 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 and 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.
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!