Designing for Gen Z: What do digital natives really want in a mobile app?

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As digital natives, Gen Z -  those aged 10 to 25 - have been surrounded by technology, social media, mobile devices, and the internet their entire lives.

With nearly 40% of mobile users being Gen Zers, they represent the largest consumer group for video content - making them key targets when it comes to designing a successful app.

So, as this tech-savvy generation continues to consume the most content, what do they really look for in a mobile app? 

To dive deeper, The Interaction Design Foundation, the world’s leading online design school, offers its top tips on meeting the design needs of Gen Z. 

Mads Soegaard, Founder of The Interaction Design Foundation, comments “Designing an app for Gen Z is not just about meeting their current needs, but also about shaping their future expectations and behaviours. 

“By understanding their preferences and designing for their unique characteristics, we can create apps that resonate with Gen Z and set the foundation for long-term engagement and success."

1. User Interface and Experience

User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are crucial factors when designing an app for Gen Z. As digital natives, Gen Zers expect apps to have a clean and intuitive interface that allows them to navigate the app easily.

Gen Z’s focus lies not just on your design, but on accomplishing their tasks without anything else getting in their way. Therefore, your design should be "invisible," with users directing their attention towards task completion rather than the design itself. 

2. Personalisation

In such a competitive landscape, there are many mobile applications with similar offerings. As such, the app that offers the most personalisation will ultimately stand out from the competition. 

While Gen Zers are using the app, they should feel like it was designed for them. This generation values individuality and expects apps to adapt to their preferences. Providing options for personalisation, such as customisable profiles or tailored content recommendations, can greatly enhance their user experience. 

3. Gamification and Rewards

Gamification and rewards can significantly increase the success of a mobile app among Gen Z users. Incorporating elements like progress tracking, achievements, and incentives can motivate them to stay engaged and continue using the app.

The introduction of gamification and rewards in a mobile app for Gen Z can also improve its success by increasing engagement, motivating users, fostering social interaction, promoting goal-oriented behaviour, ensuring retention, and potentially driving viral growth. 

4. Privacy and Security

Gen Z is more aware of privacy and security concerns than previous generations. They value their personal information and expect apps to prioritise their privacy. Therefore, by  implementing robust security measures, an app can build trust and establish a positive reputation among Gen Z users.

Designing an app with strong privacy measures also helps protect sensitive user information, such as personal details, location data, or browsing habits, from unauthorised access or misuse. And demonstrating a commitment to data protection is essential for gaining and retaining Gen Z users. 

5. Social Media Integration

With 1.3 billion Gen Zers using social media worldwide, social media plays a huge role in the everyday lives of these consumers. 

By integrating social media features into an app, such as the ability to sign in with social media accounts or share content directly to social platforms, the app provides a familiar and convenient user experience.

Social media integration also allows app users to connect and interact with their friends, followers, or other app users, fostering a sense of belonging and encouraging social engagement within the app. 

As such, by leveraging social media integration effectively, app designers can tap into the preferences and behaviours of Gen Z, leading to increased engagement, user acquisition, and overall app success.

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