Designing for Millennials        

6 Things to Keep in Mind when Designing for Millennials

June 10, 2015

Like most of you, I’ve read dozens of articles over the past few years about millennials and how different they are than previous generations – as consumers, employees and entrepreneurs. The first generation to grow up surrounded by the “instant gratification” technology of digital media, the “millennials” (born 1980-2000) have no memory of a world without cell phones, digital cameras, text messaging, email and web browsing. The Internet has opened more doors to this generation than any other. Research indicates that by 2017, the millennial generation will make up the largest online audience and will have more buying power than any other generation that has come before it, including baby boomers. As digital natives, leaders of today’s social causes and early adopters of the latest technology, millennials have a tremendous influence on future market trends. What is important to understand about this generation in order to design products and services that meet their wants and needs? I’ve outlined what I believe are six key points companies should keep in mind when designing for the millennial generation.


1. Success is pursued. We live in a world where companies such as Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat have not only created new marketplaces, but have set a course to change our economy and the world we live in. In each of these companies, millennials serve as both founders and leaders. They aren’t afraid to try platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo in order to have their ideas heard – or companies launched.

They are the consumers you want to test your product or service and provide real, honest feedback based off their experiences and views on what would and wouldn’t be a success in the market. After all, they know what this generation wants more than anybody. As millennial designers or business leaders use these platforms, it gives them the chance to chase their dreams and what they want to accomplish out of life.

Especially in the world of design, nothing is handed to a designer or comes easy, but taking a risk is what life is all about to this generation. Failing is not an option – as millennials have relentless personalities.


2. Instant gratification is key. Millennials desire speed, ease and efficiency when it comes to seeking information, communicating with others or making a purchase. Instant gratification is very important. When texting, they question any delay in response seeing as they know the cell phone rarely leaves the recipients hands. On Facebook, they can see when someone is online, or when someone reads their message, and therefore expect an instant response. If you want food for dinner, it can be delivered with the click of a button via sites like GrubHub or Seamless. Millennials are accustomed to expect immediate results. It is important to remember efficiency – but that could mean possibly sacrificing quality, that could potentially be a downfall. For instance, current research shows that if a millennial doesn’t have their question answered immediately within minutes of asking, more than half will walk away from their purchases on the spot.

For the reason of wanting immediate results, Amazon recently announced Prime Now in certain locations, which is one or two-hour delivery for Prime members. It is an app-based site with essentially the same shopping experience, showing Amazon’s eye for what their users wanted on a consistent basis. The future of engaging this generation is crucial for providing fast, efficient website or app self-service options that give users an answer on the spot.


3. Social media is used as an outlet to express opinions. Millennials take to social media for nearly everything – and that includes advocating or critiquing opinions in real-time. More than any other generation, millennials rely on each other and share opinions with friends and family to make more informed decisions. An instant posting that can reach all corners of the world is causing companies to rethink their approach to launching products as well as being far more concerned on what people are saying about their products, company culture and how they are impacting the environment. They review, blog and post YouTube and Instagram videos showcasing products or services they love and hate. In addition, they do most of their research online before purchasing a product or service. They have tablets and smartphones at their fingertips. Brands that have a social media presence and an intuitive website have a greater chance of gaining a successful following.

For example, inspired by the social media craze, we designed a product that brings the social experience to the store. The purpose of The Like Machine™ is to give consumers an easy and immediate way to express their opinions on what they’re purchasing, as well as to be informed by the “likes” of others – all while shopping in a store. It’s local, personal and easy to understand – making the design and marketing process a successful one.


4. Possessing an extraordinary degree of social awareness. Millennials have been following social causes more than any other generational group in today’s society. They’re more conscious when it comes to making purchases that will benefit them and the greater good. These choices can be based on their personal beliefs or those around them. For example, for every pair of Toms that are purchased, the company will donate a pair of shoes to those in need. Starting at manufacturing and ending at the distribution of the product, they are seeing the process all the way through.


5. Personal connections are key.Millennials want products and services to match their fast-paced, connected world. They grew up linked across global platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. While some prefer texts or tweets versus human conversations – I know a number of millennials who care deeply about human connection and the environment. It is just as important to present a means for your product or service online as it is to provide a real person the consumer can reach out to in order to get more information based on their wants or needs. Millennials want brands that are transparent and authentic – brands that reflect what they value most and allow them to make personal connections. Communicate with your consumer, tell them what you are thinking and feeling and explain the decisions you make. And know your competition – especially if there is an online advantage for comparisons. Differences can make or break your product – but showing how it can benefit a user can be the winning factor, regardless of cost.


6. High expectations for a seamless user experience.Their expectations for polished user experiences are at their highest. Although millennials can often figure out how to use an app or site that isn’t intuitive, they probably won’t take the time to do so. With such a large part of e-commerce becoming m-commerce from the amount of smartphones and tablets being used, the need for web designers and mobile app developers to ensure intuitive and effortless user experiences is higher than ever.


Working with millennials over the years, I have seen firsthand their desire to innovate and be positive contributors with their work, social responsibilities and personal lives. Tablets, smartphones and laptops have given them freedom to access what they need, when they need it. They are multi-taskers – they can sit and watch TV, while working on a paper and chatting online with friends. Their unique behaviors, beliefs and knowledge give them power in the marketplace. This group will continue to challenge the status quo, expecting more from products and services. It is more imperative than ever to recognize this generation, as ignoring them could very well lead to missed market opportunities as well as potentially being detrimental to your brand. The ability to examine and experience millennial behaviors gives companies the power to develop and evolve innovative products that will change the technology world.


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