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5 Ways to Make Apps Friendlier to Baby Boomers

May 8, 2012

Did you know that 10,000 people will turn 65 everyday for the next 18 years?   How about that nearly 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65 by 2030?

This single cohort of 78 million people account for more than 50% of discretionary spending?

So why are app developers ignoring these wealthy folks known as Baby Boomers?

If you are a developer or designer reading this blog, I bet you are saying, “We’re not ignoring Boomers.  We make lots of apps and sites they can use.”

And young designers really believe that their apps are serving the 50+ market.  But they are wrong.  Every day, productivewebapps.com lists 5 or 6 apps new entries to the marketplace.  However, they are all designed for young users.

Even the apps that think they target older users with easy intros and register pages—miss the boat.  They start simple, but then get difficult, so difficult that the Boomer user experience goes from good to frustrating in less than three minutes.

I’m pretty adept at using apps.  I write an “App of the Week” blog for AARP, so when I find something tough to follow, it’s really hard.

Developers—plain and simple–your apps lack Usability for Boomers, as defined by Jakob Nielsen, of the Nielsen Norman Group, who is the founder of usability science.  He says usability is how easy and pleasant the features are to use.

So here’s how web site and app developers can make inroads into the huge and wealthy Boomer market by making them more usable.

  1. Make sure the app does what users need.  If you are marketing a personalized exercise site for us to pick our goals, and select a personalized trainer, then make sure we can refine those goals easily. Otherwise it’s not personalized.
  2. Make sure we can learn how to use it easily the first time we open it.  Many apps make the intro and sign-up easy, but get more complex when the app begins.  No! No! No! Keep it simple throughout.
  3. Make it efficient.  Once we have learned how to run the app, can we perform the tasks quickly.  I use a wonderful app called LoseIt.  It’s a diet and exercise app.  I record all of the food I eat.  But it’s efficient because after I’ve recorded a certain food it goes into a section called “my foods” so I don’t have to search for it again.
  4. Make the site memorable.  Remember Boomers are not on line or using apps as frequently as younger people, so we may not use the app every day or even every week.  However, when we return to it, we don’t want to have to relearn it.  If it’s easy to follow, we’ll remember it, and use it.
  5. Make the experience pleasant.  You have all heard about delighting the consumer—here’s your chance.  If we like the experience, we’ll use it and become loyal to it.    If we love it and use it often, we’ll probably pay for a version without the advertising too!

 

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2 Comments
  1. Great points about ease of use and the importance of the boomer tech market. While we may be “digital immigrants” rather than “natives”, we have arrived and are quite ready to conquer this new frontier. At a recent Google+ business workshop designed to get businesses on line, most of the attendees looked more like me than my kids, and all were tapping on Ipads or swishing across smart phones.

  2. Thanks for your reply Nancy, as you know I couldn’t agree more!

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