Designing for different age groups

UX design aims to create simple, intuitive and enjoyable user experiences for as many people as possible. It is important, however, to take into account the age of the user, since each generation behaves and thinks very differently.

The generation gap is especially evident in the use of new technologies, for example, where the habits and skills of a digital native cannot be compared to those of a Generation X user. The levels of education and experience for each age group influences how they relate to products and services, while age itself changes the way an individual perceives colours, contrasts, depth, and movement.

In this article, we will analyze the characteristics of the different age groups and look at how to create easy and attractive designs for each of them.

Users between 3 and 12 years old

According to a Nielsen Norman Group study, designs aimed at children should be further segmented into three smaller groups: children between 3 and 5 years old (pre-readers), between 6 and 8 years old (beginner readers) and between 9 and 12 years (moderately skilled readers).

Though it is always advisable to apply this division first, there are some general recommendations for designs intended for children:

  • Provide clear instructions and objectives, which can be supported by examples.
  • Use bright colours.
  • Use large icons that allude to objects in the real world.
  • Offer a clean interface, with no advertising or decorative elements.
  • Include multimedia elements with video, animation and sound.
  • Include characters they know from television, movies, books, etc.
  • Add games with an educational component.
  • Offer feedback to achieve positive and emotional impact.

Users between 13 and 17 years old

Design aimed at adolescents must take into account the close relationship they have with technology. This age group navigates through various digital products and services with a clear goal in mind, but their behaviour differs from that of adults in three important ways: a lower reading level, simpler methods when searching for information, and low levels of patience and tolerance.

So, here are some tips for adapting designs to make them more attractive and usable for teens:

  • Limit the amount of text, therefore reducing distractions, boredom, and frustration.
  • Display information in small, clear blocks, with plenty of white space around it.
  • Use simple words, short phrases, images, and visual formats, such as bullet points.
  • Use large fonts, which are easier to notice when browsing quickly or distractedly.
  • Take care of aesthetics, avoiding clutter and multimedia elements that serve no purpose.
  • Add elements that allow self-expression, such as quizzes, votes, games or tools to edit and share images.
  • Prioritize website speed, reducing loading times and limiting complex or high-resolution resources.
  • Do not use a condescending or childish tone.
  • Use mobile-optimized designs and pay attention to the use of touch gestures, since it is more likely they’ll own/use a smartphone than a computer.
Cuadro comparativo con las principales diferencias entre el diseño orientado a niños, adolescentes, estudiantes universitarios y adultos.
Fuente: Nielsen Norman Group

Users between 20 and 35

This age group includes millennials and Generation Y, and are characterized by having lived through the consolidation and popularization of the Internet and new technologies and tend to create relationships of trust with the products and services they use. They are moved by specific objectives and are users of social networks. They value the usability of an interface, though they are also capable of adapting to complex or unintuitive environments.

Here are some recommendations for adapting designs to this user profile:

  • Provide search tools, so that each user can directly access the information that interests them.
  • Include customization and accessibility options, such as language and location preferences or adjustments to font size and contrast.
  • Design a simple content tree and a clean UI, avoiding excessive visual elements and ensuring clarity of information.
  • Prioritize speed and efficiency, avoiding unnecessary steps and excessive load times.
  • Offer immediate feedback on each different action.
  • Include tools to share content and interact on social networks.
  • Develop a responsive interface that offers fluid navigation on computers, tablets and mobiles.
  • Incorporate gamification elements, such as rewards, achievements, challenges or rankings, which encourage user participation and commitment.
  • Offer a fast and easy shopping experience to reduce dropouts during checkout.

Users between 36 and 55 years old

This age group includes Generation X and the Baby Boomers. They are less familiar with technology, so they prefer products and services that offer convenience, security and ease of use. They highly value intuitive and clear interfaces, which allow them to achieve their goals without having to face doubts or complications. They have more patience and tolerance for waiting, although they are more willing to abandon processes that confuse them.

Here are some recommendations to improve the experience of this type of user:

  • Create visual and memorable interfaces.
  • Include texts that develop topics extensively but simply, and that do not take any topic for granted.
  • Use large, visible and easy to click links, with plenty of space around them.
  • Use small animations to reinforce the different actions.
  • Limit long flows or tasks and reduce the number of steps, offering constant feedback on progress and reminders about the objective.
  • Include contextual help elements, such as suggestions or brief explanations during the execution of different tasks.
  • Give clear instructions, as well as solutions to possible errors.

Provide easily accessible support and assistance options, such as an online chat service or a contact telephone number.

Users aged 56 and over

Finally, we must also consider adaptating our designs to individuals over 56. The senior sector is conditioned by late adoption of technology and a lack of ease in using it, but also by the physical and motor limitations of age. They are characterized by great patience and interest in reading all the content, as well as suffering from some disorientation when faced with animations and other non-static elements. Although they come to products and services with a goal in mind, they are more open to research and learning.

Here are some considerations for designs aimed at this segment of the population, which can be applied together with those mentioned in the previous group of adult users:

  • Use components and fonts with larger size, contrast and legibility, also making links easier to identify.
  • Create flexible interfaces, with a high error tolerance, which provide options to rectify those errors.
  • Avoid the use of modern terms.
  • Use a design where all options are visible, with each elements correctly ordered and labeled.
  • Provide audio and visual aids, along with accessibility options that allow the size and colour of the text to be adjusted.
  • Include subtitles in videos and audios.

If you want to adapt your business to the needs of different age groups, we at GammaUX offer you our digital innovation consultancy services. With more than 15 years of experience in the sector, our team of professionals stands out for its personalized advice and focus on user experience. Come and find out what we can do for you and your business!