Adjust your app to your users needs: UI design for children, millennials and older people

Identifying the target group for your application is always one of the early stages of any mobile application project and has a huge impact on its further development. Getting to know your users, their preferences, motivations, patterns of behavior and many other factors is crucial, to make sure that your project will achieve a great success. Because remember – the one thing that is more important than the app idea itself is tailoring your project to its end users. Ultimately, they will be the one to verify its usefulness and determine what features or capabilities they’re expecting from it.

The usage of mobile devices depends on many different factors such as our users age, gender, physical conditions, current habits, a frequency of phone use and many, many others. All this small, yet very important details determine how mobile applications will work and look like. The result of all of the design decisions made on the basis of the above information is the application’s interface.

HOW MOBILE TECHNOLOGIES CHANGED OUR WORLD OVER THE YEARS

The popularity of mobile apps began to grow at the end of 2008, when Apple and Google launched the first versions of their platforms for release. Sooner or later, each of us became acquainted with the possibilities of smartphones, joining a huge group of users who created a huge demand on the market.

However, new technologies have become mainly the domain of the young people, for whom using mobile applications was a natural way to follow the trends. The baby-boom generation, born in the 1980s and 1990s, played a very important role here. They are referred to as the’ Y’ generation, or’ millennials’ because they were the first generation to enter the new millennium. They were not necessarily born in the age of computers, but maturing as new technologies became widely available and computers had an increasing impact on their lives.

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At the time of writing this article, the aforementioned “millennials” reached their mature age, have fixed income and are willing to make payments in mobile applications. As a result, they are currently the most attractive target group of the mobile industry. It is worth remembering, however, they are just one segment of users and in addition to them we can define many other smaller groups, which also have a share in the global market. This means that the world of mobile applications has no limits and nowadays it is extremely important to understand your target group and translate their expectations into a well-designed product.

HOW TO DESIGN MOBILE APPS FOR CHILDREN

You have to remember, that children grow very quickly and their behavior changes dramatically in two-year intervals. Interfaces for young users are designed based on NUI (Natural User Interface) principles. Those kinds of systems use natural human gestures and behaviors. An example of a device that allows such interactions to be applied is e. g. popular Apple iPad. In the case of UI design for children, we can separate a few smaller groups like:

0-2 YEARS OLD

Kids in this age are the youngest users and therefore have no habits in using touchscreens. This may be quite helpful in designing, but it will also introduce some limitations. The most important thing to remember is to focus on simple gestures like moving or “grabbing” and make sure, that the interactive objects are big enough for small hands. Children up to 5 years old move the screen with their whole hands, instead of single fingers. You also have to remember, to locate the navigation at the bottom of the screen.

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Mobile app Farm123

2-4 YEARS OLD

At about 3 years of age, children begin to understand how to close the X icon and move forward or backward with the help of arrows. Still, however, they are unable to read, so it is worth to use sounds or images to illustrate some particular activities. For example, a ringing-dong sound may indicate the appearance of a new item on the screen, and a short “beep” may mean that the time to perform an action or try again is over.

4-6 YEARS OLD

In this range of age, children begin to recognize gender. So it is worth to take care of that characters on their screens and make them more neutral and thus more satisfying for both sexes. Importantly, children of this age group want to learn, they also like to repeat activities and challenges. A well-designed application may involve a young user, but a badly thought-out interface may result in a quick shutdown of the application. Children like large and thick elements, with big pictures and bright colors, but remember to keep the number of colors balanced and not distracted. At this age children begin to understand the purpose of the HOME screen and, with a good interface, they will use this function.

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Mobile App Eggy Subtract to 20

6-8 YEARS OLD

At this age, children start to be influenced by others and become more curious. They start to notice gender differences and their memory starts to work more efficiently. They are able to focus for a longer period of time like to finish what they have started, and in case of a failure, they can even be frustrated. Therefore, they will be happy to use the applications, and the probability that they will turn it off decreases significantly. At this age kids are starting to learn how to read, so the interface may include simple commands such as “name”,”go”,”start”,”pause” or “stop”. You can also use more complicated gestures and complex navigation, even in the 3D space.

9-12 YEARS OLD

Children at this age begin to become more like teenagers. They do not always want to be judged by their age, and they want to feel as adults. For the first time, they begin to understand technological solutions they are dealing with, such as application interfaces. Unlike in previous age groups, children in this range are not satisfied with the repetition of the same activity and thus the predictable content becomes boring for them. It happens because this is usually the age, that children receive their first smartphone and use it mainly for social purposes. They are still too young to use Facebook, so they often rely on other simpler platforms such as’ Kik’,’ Snapchat’ or’ Instagram’.

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Mobile app Inventioneers Full Version

ABOVE 12 YEARS OLD

Along with getting older, kids begin to appreciate the carefully created graphics and animations, as well as the warm and vivid colors. Properly combined, they create an interesting interface with which young users want to identify themselves. Interesting effects and fun that can accompany them play an important role here. At this age, preferences are slowly starting to approach those typical for adults, such as faster text scanning with eyesight, a freer use of in-house navigation such as’ reverse back’ or information search.

HOW TO DESIGN MOBILE APPS FOR MILLENIALS

Entering the adult age of 18 changes our target audience in a completely new group called “millennials”. Today, it is a key group of users, where over 80% of them have smartphones. So it’s not surprising at all, that nowadays one of the main design trends is the’ mobile first’ scheme. In designing for this group we can distinguish the following practices:

    They are expecting personalized and clear solutions – this is a very important assumption, which should be obvious from the very beginning of the project.
    Mobile interfaces designed for millennials can use interactive elements and animations, but they should always serve specific purposes.
    Younger app users, unlike their older colleagues, are very confident in using digital interfaces and have no major problems in using more advanced or innovative solutions. Very often their actions anticipate the natural use of a given application or website, and thus they do not blame themselves if something works not according to their thoughts (as opposed to older users).

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Mobile apps Spotify and Facebook

    As advanced users of mobile devices, Millennials will not spend much time thinking about how the interface, which is incomprehensible to them, works. If they are disappointed, they will leave the application quickly and share their opinion with friends (perhaps through the social media).
    They prefer more modern trends defined by “flat design” style, while older users can define the same look as boring and less attractive
    In products designed for millennials, performance, speed, and simplicity of solutions will be key factors.

As you can see, reaching the millennials group is not easy and is a big challenge for today’s designers. One of the facilities for today’s designers is that they are in the most cases at the same age as the users for whom they’re designing for. Which is not always the advantage when designing for the other age groups.

HOW TO DESIGN APPS FOR BABY BOOMERS & GENERATION X

We have already discussed groups for whom new technologies are a natural tool that they have been dealing with since their young age. But we shouldn’t forget that older users are also a large part of all mobile apps users and they also want to follow the technological developments. These are mainly the Baby Boomers (born in 1946-1964) and Generation X (born in 1964-1980). According to statistics, 74% of people aged between 50 and 65 use smartphones regularly. The preferences of these groups change dramatically because of different situations and views on privacy, social media, security, personalization and online presence. Until recently, these groups were the most attractive from a marketing point of view, but with the time their share will fall in favor of millennials.

When designing applications for older people we have to remember, that there are many limitations such as vision problems, impaired motorsport, or limitations of the nervous system. There are also other problems, such as the following:

    Older people often hold their smartphone with one hand, and make some actions with the other, using their pointer finger. Because for the young people the point of reference is the hand, and for older people their whole body.
    Older people need almost twice as much time to carry out the action as young people, mainly due to more cautious behavior and slower processing of individual stimuli.

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Mobile app Mint

    Colour perception changes with age, and this is particularly true for the shades of blue color.
    To ensure proper comfort for older users, it is worth taking care of a clear interface using slightly larger texts, more contrasting colors or larger clickable elements.

KEY TAKEAWAY

Color, shape, spacing, movement, position, hierarchy and many other factors – all these elements of the mobile application design MUST be suitably matched for its end users. Designers should always remember that their aim is not to create a nice looking design but to transform the assumptions and vision into a product that will be obvious and understandable to their specific target audience.

 
Wanna find out more, about how to create a perfect design for your mobile app? Check this article about 10 commandment of modern UI design.

 

Bibliography:

    1. Design For Kids: Digital Products for Playing and Learning by Debra Levin Gelman
    2. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/young-adults-ux/
    3. http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20131024006116/en/Millennials-Outspend-Baby-Boomer-Catching-Retail-Industry#.VADDeWNgNnV
    4. http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2016/millennials-are-top-smartphone-users.html

Mariusz Sojka
UX/UI Designer
An experienced UX/UI designer, who started his career over 15 years ago. At the moment I'm focused on designing mobile apps and RWD websites. I'm a true mountain biker that rides his bike almost every day and I'm addicted to nature.

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