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Simplicity and Design Across Generations

The most effective way to get readers to visit and stay on a website is to give them proper motivation, such as invoking emotion with stories and pictures.

Research has shown that the simpler the design, the better, because the brain can only process so much information at at time. Too much information can overload it and cancel out understanding and retention. Consuming news and advertising involves receiving information, adding previously held knowledge for context and then storage of the new information. These all need to be kept in balance. If a reader has to work too hard to find the stories they are looking for on a website, it can defeat the brain’s ability to add context and store new information. Keeping it simple is key, and it can be beautiful.

This doesn’t mean leave out important information, especially information that makes you and your business special. It means remove the clutter, clashing colors and formats that make a viewer’s eye jump erratically through a page. Clean and simple, yet informative pages, are successful because viewers are able to stay on your site and enjoy what you have to offer.

When looking at user experience across multiple generations, the common interest is simplicity. However, there are still going to be generational differences in the expectations and mental models that people have about technology or even the term simplicity, so if you design a website with content, features and interactions that you think work well, it’s likely that someone from another generational group may not think the same thing.

  •  Baby boomers (those over 55) are a huge demographic and expect technology to help them get stuff done. They don’t demand a multi-channel experience, and they make a distinction between different channels: TV is one channel and “the Internet” is another. Visual overload and site complexity is frustrating and excessive.
  • Generation Xers (between the ages of 30-55) are the smallest group and expect some technology to help them get stuff done and other technology to be fun to play with. Gen Xers think that it’s important to be able to customize and personalize an interface and an interaction, an idea that is not that important to other generations.
  • Millennials (those under 30) are an even larger demographic than baby boomers and don’t even think about the term “technology.” Everything is technology. The tech and screen size don’t necessarily matter as long as it works. Brand experience through technology is important and can make or break the user experience and thoughts about the brand or company. They think in terms of what they are doing, not what the technology is doing. Boomers will say, “Go look that up on the Internet.” Millennials would just say, “Go look it up.”
  • People who are even younger won’t think of a desktop or laptop as a primary technology. They think of smart phones and tablets. Since you are in one generation, you can’t ever really understand how another generation thinks, so you’ll have to test your website design, user experience and flow with a variety of people.

Do you take your target audience into account when you plan your color choices, designs, layouts, and navigation?  What accommodations do you make?