Web design should adapt to users — their needs, habits, and preferred technology.
Members of each generation have unique ways of engaging with websites based on how they perceive the world. Hence web design and messaging should carefully consider the targeted age cohort.
It’s always a good exercise to define which cohort is the primary focus of your business. A common desire is to speak to all consumers, independent of age. That can make a site less impactful for everyone. And the minute we speak clearly to one age group, we risk losing another.
Although stereotypes and exceptions abound, we know much about each generation’s preferences and attitudes. The University of South Florida has long published generational differences charts. I’ve incorporated generational tendencies in my clients’ web designs for years.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned.
Let’s start with Baby Boomers, born from 1945 to 1964. This generation appreciates larger fonts with good contrast (darker colors over white) and more margin on the edges. Many Baby Boomers are idealistic with high principles and purposes.
- Appreciate the flexibility of multiple options to choose from,
- Utilize both ecommerce and in-person shopping,
- Have some aversion to deep browsing to find a product,
- Will answer their phone and will place a call (valuing easy click-to-call access),
- Appreciate lesser, “soft” benefits of products,
- Rarely go to friends and family for recommendations as they rely heavily on brand recognition,
- Give importance to the above-the-fold.
Gen Xers were born from 1965 to 1980, roughly. They are more comfortable with technology than Baby Boomers and have participated in the evolution of the internet. But this generation is focused on one thing: results. Their time is scarce, and they live by the WIIFM rule — What’s In It For Me.
- Value informality, pragmatism, and straightforward design,
- Live as time is their greatest asset, so cut the fluff and complicated layouts,
- Disengage when they feel unconnected,
- Prefer straight talk and facts,
- Use email as their top communication tool,
- Respond to email better than the phone, unless at work,
- Dislike buzzwords and jargon,
- Appreciate humor.
Next we have Millennials, born from 1981 to 1996. Members of this age group appreciate design with plenty of white space and unconventional shapes and colors. They see life globally and seek impact and purpose. So tie your message to these values.
- Prefer purchases tied to an experience,
- Rely heavily on their phones and expect the same experience on mobile as on desktop,
- Respond well to humor and fun,
- Have a strong consumer mentality,
- Prefer text messaging and social media for communication,
- Value expressions of vulnerability and humanity (so use authenticity),
- Appreciate stories and emotional scenarios,
- Love free shipping, rewards, and special offers,
- Depend heavily on the opinions of friends and colleagues.
And finally, Gen Zs, born from approximately 1997 to 2012. The oldest Gen Zs are getting married and having kids. They are frequently innovators and want to participate in a product’s creation process.
- Are socially responsible and expect brands to be the same,
- Have exacting tastes and preferences and are demanding shoppers,
- Want products delivered, not picked up in-store,
- Demand efficiency and hassle-free,
- Expect real-time notifications about their orders,
- Prefer the convenience of online shopping and efficiency over price,
- Spend significant time researching a product before purchasing,
- Trust endorsements of family and friends more than advertisements,
- Respond well to two-way, interactive marketing,
- Are used to getting what they want online at a good price.
Knowing the intricacies of each generation, ecommerce owners can focus on the one most important to their business. Watering down the messaging and design to speak to multiple age groups can make the impact less meaningful to all users — and reduce conversions.