Understanding The Differences In Mobile App Use Across Generations

Nik Froehlich is the CEO and Founder of Saritasa, an Information Technology and Services company, since 2005.

Nik Froehlich is the CEO and Founder of Saritasa, an Information Technology and Services company, since 2005.

People across all generations spend more time now than ever before using mobile apps, averaging roughly four hours a day. This is why brands are focusing on advertising for mobile. App Annie estimated that $290 billion would be spent on mobile advertising in 2021. Although all generations use mobile apps, they don’t use them the same way.

Here are the key differences in how each generation uses mobile applications:

Generation Z

Under the age of 25, Generation Z — or “digital natives” — grew up with smartphones and the internet. Gen Zers account for almost 40% of mobile users, and they’re the biggest consumers of video content. A report from Awesomeness found that up to 71% of Gen Zers go to YouTube for long-form content, while up to 75% use Snapchat to connect with their peers.

Generation Z uses about five different screens: a smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV and desktop. According to an IBM study, 75% of Gen Zers selected their smartphones as their device of choice. However, 69% still own a laptop or PC.

Where does all this information lead us in terms of designing for Gen Z? Since they consume the most online media, app designs should allow them to quickly access digital content. Apps on mobile devices should be easy to navigate even with just one hand. Important buttons should be placed at the bottom so that the user can easily reach them with one thumb. Icons, rather than text, are a simple and efficient way to direct users through an app.

Millennials

Millennials are between 25 and 40 years old, and this is the most diverse generation in terms of lifestyle habits and interests. Though millennials use social media, most turn to other apps for music streaming, games and navigation. This group values information and is willing to use a variety of apps to remain up to date about current events, entertainment news and even weather information. Many millennials also use e-commerce apps, and up to 35% prefer Amazon. According to research by B2X, millennials spend at least five hours a day on their smartphones.

When designing for millennials, a separate mobile app or mobile responsive website is critical. Millennials generally respond the most to push notifications, as a 2015 Business Insider study found that 84% of millennial app users respond to push notifications they receive.

Generation X

Those in Generation X are now between 41 and 56 years old and go online for a specific purpose.

According to a GlobalWebIndex report, Gen Xers spend about two and a half hours daily on their smartphones and spend about two hours a day on social media. Unlike younger generations, Gen Xers prefer personal interaction rather than visual stimulation. They comprise the largest demographic group of Facebook users; 81% of Gen Xers have a Facebook account compared to 71% of users who have a YouTube account. Since those under this category go online for a specific purpose, developers must make ease of use the priority for Gen Xers.

Baby Boomers

As noted by Marketing Dive, 65.6% of baby boomers (aged 57 to 75) own a smartphone, while around 55% have a tablet. This generation uses apps that help them maintain a better quality of life. These include apps that give information about healthy living, shopping and travel. Studies show that up to 40% of baby boomers use retail apps to buy products. However, only 32% of baby boomers use a mobile wallet.

Younger generations tend to navigate apps with more icon-driven UI because they can understand visual cues more quickly. Millennials and Gen Zers have a more intuitive understanding of common UI practices such as swiping and dragging icons. However, older users may need more text-based cues. For example, e-commerce apps should be more straightforward and spell out “Add to Cart” instead of just having a plus icon on a product page.

In addition, baby boomers are generally more used to reading long-form text and moving through pages at a slower pace in order to digest all information. Older users may also need larger text and less complex designs for easier access. App designs may also need to have enough color contrast to make the text easier to read.

Key Takeaways

Gen Zers go for apps that provide visual stimulation, and this group consumes the most video content. This is why many app designs that cater to the Gen Z market provide their users with easier access to different types of media content. Millennials, however, use a variety of apps but do so primarily to obtain information. They also respond the most to push notifications. Gen Zers and millennials primarily use their mobile phones to use apps, so developers must ensure to create mobile responsive websites. However, it may be harder for developers to compete with the slew of newer applications regularly being launched.

Gen Xers and baby boomers use apps more purposefully. Gen Xers prefer personal connections to visual stimulation, which is why many of them are on Facebook. On the other hand, baby boomers use apps to maintain a better quality of life. They may also prefer app designs that are easier to read and navigate. This means having more text-based over icon-based UI designs. Both Gen Xers and baby boomers are very purposeful when using applications, so developers must place user experience (UX) as a top priority, ensuring that the UX is seamless and easy to navigate. Developers must also take into consideration that not all baby boomers may be adept at adjusting to new interfaces, so it may be better to stick to one that works and not change the UI so much after every update.

Understanding these differences can allow developers to create apps that cater to the specific tastes of each generation. The differences may be subtle, but the impact they have on your app can be huge.


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https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/01/12/understanding-the-differences-in-mobile-app-use-across-generations/