Contrary to what you might expect, Baby Boomers aren't crusading against modern technology. Instead, they're spending time and money to embrace it. Dishing out more on devices than Gen X or Gen Y, Boomers spend an average of $650 per month on new technology and account for 40 percent of all customers who pay for a wireless service. And while younger generations are the first to adopt new technologies, it's Baby Boomers' adoption that drives the real growth. Using the latest smartphones and tablets to socialize, shop, stay connected and entertained, one-third of Boomers shop online and spend almost $7 billion a year when they do.
From incorporating voice commands to using simple interfaces, app developers must begin catering to Baby Boomers' niche mobile needs. As a generation that's poised to make up half the U.S. population and control 70 percent of its disposable income by 2017, Baby Boomers are a cohort that businesses can't ignore when mapping out their mobile strategy.
Here are five tips for developing apps for Boomers:
According to the Consumer Electronics Association, Baby Boomers are more frustrated by their mobile phones than any other age group, with overabundance of features and small button size being the primary offenders. That being said, the more Boomers have to type, scroll, or zoom within an app, the less they will use it. Keep your apps simple with readable fonts and limited features on each page; when mapping out your content, remember that mobile screens cannot display the same volume of information as a full laptop browser. Spread out text and interactive features across app pages, and keep button sizes proportional to prevent a cumbersome UX.
Don't keep users waiting on a blank screen while an app is loading. Use cues and animations to confirm what actions were just taken. For example, whenever the exit button is hit, display a quick message, such as "Thank you for visiting," to prevent unnecessary frustration and confusion. Until Baby Boomers become more accustomed to your app, they want and need reassurance of what they're doing -- whether it's logging out, inputting information into text fields, or changing settings. Leaving them out of the loop will only instigate doubt in the app's security or functionality.
Different generations have different feelings toward the invasiveness of social apps and apps that track you in real-time, making it necessary to know your audience and tailor to their privacy preferences. When targeting Boomers, draw the line between useful and intrusive; and when it comes to features like push notifications, make sure they're as customizable as possible. Include clear opt-out and security features for push notifications, data-sharing, and location tracking. If an app does require users' personal information, simply and concisely tell Boomers how it's being collected and what it's being used for.
When it comes to mobile technology, voice commands resonate most with Baby Boomers. Boomers have spoken into phones their entire lives, making voice input very familiar and easy for them to use. Verbal commands eliminate the need for ?nger dexterity and typing on small buttons, as well as solving the navigation and menu problems that often frustrate Boomers. Too often, developers make menus too complex and complicated, resulting in Boomers getting lost on their way from one basic screen to another. Integrating intuitive options like voice commands into an app will improve the user experience and allow Boomers to navigate throughout the app without a problem.
When developing for Baby Boomers, avoid responsive web design (RWD). Too often, RWD lowers an app's obvious action items and next steps, making the interface challenging for users who aren't as tech savvy. RWD also makes it difficult for users to switch between devices seamlessly. RWD-built sites are developed to fit any screen (by using the same code), but what appears on the top left corner of a desktop browser isn't necessarily what you want on an iPhone screen. While this isn't a big deal for younger generations, it is enough to turn off Baby Boomers completely.
With 80 percent of Boomers online and 46 percent of them owning smartphones, developers can no longer turn a blind eye to this significant generation. Focusing less complex features and more on an intuitive user experience is ultimately what will earn Baby Boomers' time and loyalty.
Krista Chacko is mobile delivery consultant at Solstice Mobile.
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"Colorful application icons" image via Shutterstock.
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