Communication and interaction have changed significantly with the introduction of mobiles. While people used to communicate with each other through letters, with everyone using internet emails were used. However, now everyone is looking for quick, instant responses to messages. While communication with siblings and friends seems easier, communicating with a parent, grandparent, or an older distant relative has taken a back stride due to lack of technical compatibility with mobile communication. People of all age groups are trying to find information and engage with people across the world through internet. So, social media platforms and apps need to be made technologically accessible to the older generations as well as to allow them to stay connected. This can be achieved by designing apps that can be easy for the less digitalized older generation while still keeping the younger, technology-savvy generation engaged.
The different generations of people using mobile apps
While children are on a lookout for adventure and entertainment, the convenience provided by the mobile apps is the driving factor for the younger generation, and ease of use is what older users look out for. You need to balance and conceptualize all these in your mobile application design to make it compatible for all generations. Mobile business applications also need to be user-friendly for all ages in order to engage the potential users of all generations. The different generations using mobile apps can be broadly classified as under:
Generation Z or Centennials: These include the age group (6-23) that is the biggest user of modern technology. They are attracted by visually appealing websites and apps that do not demand much personal information and download them. Visuals and personal information minimalization are what attracts them in mobile apps. They are not much fond of traditional advertising and prefer to go to YouTube or other video streaming sites for entertainment rather than watching the classic television. Also, all their banking, browsing, shopping, and social networking are done through their mobile devices, maximizing their use of internet through mobile.
Generation Y or Millennials: These include the age group (24-38) that tend to make the maximum use of mobile apps. This age group seeks both entertainment and information. So, while they use social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat and view entertainment sites like Netflix and Hulu, they also view sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and sports media and download audiobooks.
Generation X: These include the age group (39-53) that use the internet more for help in daily life tasks than for entertainment. So, while their major interests include parenting, healthy living, and personal finance, they use sites like Facebook and Twitter for personal interaction and communication rather than visual stimulation. They are more likely to use apps on tablets and use mobiles mainly for communication through text messages.
Baby boomers: These include the age group (54-72) who generally use the internet to catch up with current events. They are generally interested in news, politics, travel, healthy living, and shopping sites, to make life easier. Like generation X, they also prefer to use tablets rather than mobiles to access apps. For community interaction, they also use social media like Facebook mainly.
Thus, mobile app developers who keep the interests and preferences of all these generations in mind can develop successful mobile apps. So, there is a need to design mobile apps that can attract all generations to boost the interactivity and business of the app. Here are a few tips on how to design mobile applications that can work as per the interests of all generations.
Tip #1: Develop cross-platform mobile apps
Develop your app in a way that it can be used on multiple platforms such as the mobile and the tablets. Users of all ages are likely to adopt an app if passive and easily-identifiable cues are included in it. These include log on prompts, check-in reminders, and message scheduling options. These reminders combat the forgetting factor and ensure timely delivery and response of messages.
Tip #2: Keep the UI simple and intuitive
The design of the UI should be such that people of all ages find it easy to use and retain. The UI should be so intuitive that if once any person learns to use it, they should not need any further help in using it. While a typical “hand-holding” instinct may patronize older users, it may alienate the younger ones. Thus, adequate clarity needs to be maintained without any need for hand-holding.
Tip #3: Use visuals and graphics
The UI should be clear and vibrant for all users, and the action buttons should be large. Avoid any visuals or graphics that are ageist for any particular age like grandfather clocks, toys, walking sticks, cradles, or other age-associated items. Text size and background light quality should be clear and good with adequate contrast. The icons used should be labelled to avoid miscommunication.
Tip #4: Use audio where needed
While having audio content may be great for kids to make them stay hooked, older generations especially after 65 years of age, may have an age-related hearing loss. So, any soft sounds used in alarms, push notifications, or incoming messages may not be heard and needs to be loud enough for them.
Tip #5: Keep mobile navigation transition and flow simply
The homepage should be clear and easy to navigate to allow effortless transitions to other pages, minimize confusion, and optimize user experience. Slide-out menus should be avoided as they may confuse inexperienced users. A “back” button should be added to the main menu so that the users can easily get back to the previous action if they get disoriented to click on something by mistake.
Tip #6: Keep the app content consistent
Consistency, reasoning, and surprises should be included in the app content to keep the users of all generations engaged. There should be consistency in the content and presentation so that the users know what to expect next. The users should be able to reason the placement of particular features and relate to them. Who doesn’t like sweet surprises? Surprises and unexpected extras for the users can keep the users of all age groups engaged.
Tip #7: Step up personalization
Personalization of the profile, images, contact information makes the users feel alive and empowered while enhancing their experiences and minimizing the barrier to adoption. While the younger generations may find that everything quick and easy with personalization, the older generations can avoid confusion and feel as natural as possible.
Tip #8: Test the app with your target audience
The target audience of all generations needs to be consulted throughout the design phase. Identify the challenges, red flags, and areas of success in the pilot stage and later stages. Take the feedback of the target users seriously and address all issues before launch and amplify the success determinants.
It is challenging to bridge the generational gap. However, mobile app developers are trying to achieve it with varying levels of success and still hold massive opportunity to create a solution for addressing user needs. The best way to achieve this is by eliminating friction, listening to users, shedding preconceptions, and moving closer to solutions.