Developing Apps for Millennials

2 months ago
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They are the most tech-savvy and the largest generation in history. They have tremendous buying power—and unique habits and needs. They’re Millennials, and designing and developing apps for this generation should be a top consideration for companies bringing digital products to market today.

In a previous post, Designing Apps for Millennials, we examined how collective generational values influence motivations, preferences, and expectations. In this article, we will explore some key considerations to ensure you’re keeping the Millennial mindset top of mind when developing apps for them.


Person eating dinner looking at phone

Background on the Millennial Audience

Digital Natives

Millennials have grown up in an era of rapid change, experiencing the unique transformation of globalized technology and connectivity. As the first generation of tech natives, it’s no surprise that around 98% of Millennials own smartphones. Born between 1981 and 1996, they have different expectations for their technology than the generations before them, including Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Z.

Millennials tend to value and prioritize efficiency, mobility, and instant gratification. Millennials also typically have a seamless relationship with their digital devices and the apps that run their life.

Millennials as Consumers

In terms of customer trends, Millennials are the biggest generation (92 million) and most influential in history, changing the world in ways never thought possible. They comprise 30% of the workforce and possess 1.3 trillion annual purchasing power. 

Millennials are fiercely loyal to brands they love, willing to pay more for well-made products and enjoy making online purchases. They interact with apps as an integral means of solving problems and fulfilling needs. By considering their needs when developing your app, you can ensure its success among the millions of Millennial app mobile users.

Millennial Trends in Technology

As avid smartphone users, Millennials are an ideal audience for online content and app development. This generation’s average user spends 4 hours daily on their mobile devices.

Highly Social & Interconnected

Millennials view social networks as an outlet for creativity and self-expression. They frequent platforms like Snapchat, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Airbnb, Youtube, and Pinterest.

Apps that allow for easy sharing, collaboration, and communication are more likely to resonate with the Millennial generation. Consider Snapchat, an instant multimedia messaging app created in 2011, nearing 200 million users. In August, Snapchat was ranked as the third most popular social app among Millennials, trailing closely behind other huge networks, Facebook and Instagram.

Dr. Heather Dretsch, Assistant Professor of Marketing at North Carolina State University, observed, “The creative aspect that younger generations seek of social media is very cool. They actually view themselves as more creative when they follow content that reflects their own aspirations, colors they like, high-quality imagery, and wit.”

Convenience & Cash

Millennials tend to prioritize convenience and functionality in the apps they use. As such, other popular categories include banking and finance, food delivery apps, and apps used for gig economy jobs enabling Millennials to earn extra money. Gaming is also on the rise for this generation—with a heavy dose of game consumption on mobile devices.


Hands holding phone commenting on app

Key Considerations in Developing Apps for Millennials

If you’re looking to scale your app and reach the Millennial masses—the big question is how.

This tech-savvy generation has been immersed in technology and thus has different needs than other generations. When it comes to developing digital products and content for Millennials, keep these considerations in mind:

App Performance & Speed

Speed matters greatly when creating customer experiences for this generation of digital natives. The average attention span of a Millennial is approximately 8 seconds. A slow or poor initial interaction will result in quick user abandonment. For instance, the BBC found they lost an additional 10% of users for each additional second their site took to load.

With that in mind, apps must hit the mark quickly. Lightning-fast performance should be at the top of your considerations for developing your app. Here are some ways to increase the speed of your mobile app:

  1. Optimize images and media. Large images and media files can slow down your app’s load time. Compress images and other media files to reduce size before incorporating them into your app.
  2. Minimize data usage. With numerous other apps likely running in the background on their mobile devices—data and battery conservation are critical. 37% of Millennial respondents identified data usage as a top concern when downloading an app to their mobile phones.
  3. Use a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN can help improve your app’s performance by caching your app’s content on multiple servers around the world. This can help reduce load times and ensure that users can access your app quickly from any location.
  4. Use caching. Caching can help improve app performance by reducing the need for data to be loaded every time the app is opened. Implement caching wherever possible to speed up the app.
  5. Optimize your code. Optimize your app’s code by reducing the number of requests it makes to the server, minimizing code redundancy, and reducing the codebase size. This can help improve app performance and speed up load times.
  6. Minimize network requests. Reduce the number of network requests your app makes by consolidating requests and reducing the size of requests. This can help speed up the app’s performance and improve user experience.
  7. Test your app frequently. Regularly test your app to identify any performance issues and bugs. This will help you fix any problems quickly and prevent them from slowing down your app.

By implementing these tips, you can help improve your app’s performance and speed up its load times, ultimately enhancing the user experience and keeping Millennials as loyal customers.

Lean Into Expected User Behaviors

Millennials want apps that are easy to use, instinctive, and visually appealing. If an app is poorly designed, difficult to navigate, or cluttered, users are likelier to delete it and look for an alternative. Think intuitive features with an easy learning curve, minimal noise, and key features easily accessible at the tap of your fingertips.

Convenience & Specificity

Keeping convenience at the forefront when designing an app for Millennials is essential. While some generations may need a more guided onboarding experience, tech-savvy Millennials are comfortable trying new tools. As InspiringApps Art Director, Aaron Lea, puts it:

“When users know it doesn’t take too long to accomplish a task—no guided tours—they’re more likely to use the app.”

Furthermore, unless you’re creating the next social network, don’t develop the app expecting to keep users in it. If users start to sense a stickiness in the product or the offerings themselves, you risk them closing the app or ditching their digital cart. App developers help users achieve something or access a specific feature. The fewer interactions it takes to accomplish that, the better the journey.

Again quoting InspiringApps Art Director, Aaron Lea:

“We all get distracted in the creative journey, and the risk is that we keep getting further away from (or even lose sight of) the reason we started—the problem we wanted to solve. We need to stay true to what inspired us in the beginning to create the app.”

Intuitive Design

Design is more than pretty colors and flashy animation—it’s the how and why of the app development process, deeply ingrained throughout the entire project. Design your app to be intuitive to your users by following universal design principles and heuristic guidelines. iOS and Android guidelines and design best practices will provide the best rule of thumb for most interactions.

Of course, you want to create an innovative product—but users know what to expect from an “x” or a “hamburger button.” With mobile apps, people remember the launch, the middle, and the endpoint. Pick the three most vital sections—the app’s beginning, the middle, and the exit—and make those experiences ones that keep users coming back.

A simple experience is a successful experience. Streamline old habits and familiarity into expected interactions, and let your ingenuity shine through the features and business logic.

Create a Seamless User Experience

First impressions matter—and Millennial users expect a smooth and seamless digital experience from start to finish. That means everything from anticipating and displaying the content they need to automatically unlocking the door they’re walking up to—all without a glitch.

Cross-Platform Functionality

To attract Millennials, apps need cross-platform functionality, meaning they’re usable on multiple devices so that app users can switch between platforms seamlessly. Millennial users expect to choose where to use your app, whether a smart device, a mobile device, or a web browser.

For example, as the financial world becomes increasingly digital, Millennial consumers seek web and mobile apps to safely manage their money. However, with fintech apps, a tremendous amount of data originates from different systems and stakeholders.

As we showed with our project, inHere, the key is to ensure that experience feels comfortable for users, no matter which platform or device they choose. First, design teams create the experience across various device sizes—from cell phones to large desktop displays. Then, development teams bring those designs to life using a variety of programming languages and tools, ensuring feature parity.

Personalization & Customization

Millennials value personalization and customization to their unique preferences. They want apps that allow them to tailor their experience to their preferences and needs. This includes features such as customizable notifications, personalized recommendations, and user-specific settings.

Furthermore, IoT is becoming embedded in our everyday lives. Consider how you can use data to personalize your user experience in meaningful ways along the different points of connection consumers make while using your app.

Provide Social Proof

Using social proof to leverage trust and credibility is more important than you may think. Millennials value other people’s opinions more than other generations—making social proof highly effective and necessary for your app’s success. Many Millennials look at reviews before making a purchase or commitment.

Take FOMO, for instance. They display recent orders, product reviews, and a variety of other customer behaviors to socially motivate their customers.

Social proof like credible reviews and user-generated content proves that many other users also utilize your app. In-app interactions such as “likes” can be very effective in accomplishing this, as well, and can provide the user with opportunities for engagement and connection.


Close up of phone app Headspace

Concluding Thoughts on Developing Apps for Millennials

Brands that take the time to understand the behaviors, motivations, preferences, and expectations of their Millennial users will experience significant growth. When positioned correctly, companies can apply these insights to broaden their market potential with Millennials and develop strong brand loyalty among their key customers.

Every generation is unique in how they relate to technology and the world around them. Understanding your audience and market and avoiding over-generalizations are essential prerequisites to developing a successful app.

Developing an app that caters to Millennials’ needs can provide immense value. Our insights can help you grasp the nuances required for developing such apps. With many Millennials already using apps, customizing them for this generation can yield significant returns.

If you have questions or concerns about developing apps for Millennials, Baby Boomers, Generation Z, Gen Xers—or any other generation—we would be happy to provide a free consult to you. Get in touch with us today!

Download our free development guide

In How to Design Digital Products for Every Generation, we share practical takeaways for any company looking to create a successful digital product—with audience strategy on designing for each generation and designing for all.
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