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How To Write Apps for Boomers & Seniors

[ This is a guest post by Suzie Mitchell ]

As a blogger and reviewer of mobile apps and websites targeted to Boomers and Seniors, my email box receives two to three requests a day from developers or public relations people who declare they have a “great app, my readers would love.”

Never knowing what I might find, I review them all.  However, nine out of 10 times they are sent to my trash basket.  Why?  They are too difficult to understand or navigate.

Developers who are marketing to Boomers and Seniors need to use different language in their apps and then they would if they were targeting Gen X or Gen Y.  One size does not necessarily fit all.

Let’s Talk Language



  • Boomers and Seniors (anyone above the age of 50) speak in plain language. Don’t use scare tactics to get us into your app or website like, “if you don’t use this product your health will be threatened” or “Nine out of 10 seniors fall down each month—you need this product to protect you.”



    • We don’t respond to words like 'utilize' or 'onboarding.'  We relate to phrases like 'using apps' and 'getting started.'



    • Forget streamlined.  It’s easy or quick—or both.





  • Instead, use words that describe how our lives will be enhanced with your product or service.  Offer us peace of mind, reliance and convenience.



Know Our Privacy Concerns



  • If you ask us for personal information be sure to stress it will be kept private.  As a group, most of us don’t believe the Internet is safe. And we have a strong distaste for Big Brother watching us.  Remember we grew up in the 50s when the government kept Red Squad files on purported Communists and the 60s during America’s biggest civil unrest in modern times.



  • Don’t start asking us to register for your site with a Facebook account name.  We many not want to share our new app with our Facebook friends.  We don’t feel the need to let everyone know what we’re doing.  Give us a choice immediately to try the app as guest or sign up with an email address.



  • Don’t ask for more information than absolutely needed.  For example, a favorite app of this generation is The Weather Channel.  All it asks for is a zip code to get started.  If your app needs more information, be sure to show the lock icon in a prominent position where the data is requested. Remember it’s first and foremost about data safety.



Design Presentation



  • Use as large as font as possible.  Make it san serif with good contrasting colors.  Think Zappos.  That site is a great example of an easy to use site.



  • Remember apps are not squished up versions of websites.  They need to be thought out carefully so older fingers can navigate them.  Older people’s hands are not as nimble as they once and they don’t necessarily function the same on a mobile device as on a computer.



  • Think tablets—most older adults favor using tablets for their mobile apps.  Again, they are easier to navigate and easier to read—so think about developing an app for a tablet before a smartphone.



Educate Us



  • Make us watch the video before we can navigate the buttons.  That’s right,--force us.  Put the video front and center.  Maybe even with big bold letters that says Watch this First for Easy Instructions.  Boomers tend to think we know how to do everything, and when we don’t we quickly label it as bad.  Head us off at the pass.  We may not know how to find the information we need, but we definitely know how to press play. Check out Dropbox for a great idea of this idea in practice.



Give Us Good Customer Service



  • Repeatedly I’ve heard from developers that good customer service is too labor intensive and expensive.  If you can’t offer responsive customer service you don’t have enough money to launch a website or app targeted to Boomers and Seniors.  We talk, we post bad reviews, we tell everyone we know when we think we have had a bad experience. Good customer service is paramount to success in this market.



People in the 50+ age group really do like technology and have the disposable income to purchase devices, apps and products.  In fact, a study conducted by one of my companies indicated that 71% of Boomers were willing to pay for medical apps if recommended by their doctor.

Statistics continue to show that Boomers and early seniors are the largest online spenders of any cohort.  We are ready, willing and able to take advantage of all the new technology that can offer us better health, more free time and exciting experiences.  Developers just have to give us the technology we want and we’ll adopt.


 
Mitchell, Suzie - Pic


Suzie Mitchell is CEO and founder of Clear Writing Solutions, a firm that helps healthcare IT companies market to Boomers, Seniors & Caregivers.  She also regularly blogs about technology for AARP and Next Avenue. She is releasing her second book in Spring 2013 called How to Market to Boomers, Seniors and Caregivers. You can follow her on Twitter @suziemitchell.

 

 

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