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UX and Gen Z: How to Impress a Generation

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ByPor Rachel Bott

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What does Generation Z think about UX? These days, it’s not an uncommon sight to see young kids flaunting the latest new Iphone, or to see wee babes playing casually on ipads. Some adolescents will even say, “Facebook is for old people. Everyone uses Instagram.”

This group of technological virtuosi can go by the name of Gen Z, iGen, or perhaps more fitting, Digital Natives. They are the first generation born into a world in which the immersive experience, the Internet of Things, bitcoin economics, and Instagram are as natural as the rising sun. They have never known the joys of dial-up modems, landlines, or Polaroid; and barring a major cataclysm, never will.

The children labeled as Gen Z are born within an elusive date range, some saying it starts after 2001, others saying after 1995. What is clear, however, is that this generation will be the leading consumers of technology for many years to come. Reports say that they will soon make up over 40% of the market, and will only grow from there.

CONNOISSEURS OF USER EXPERIENCE

This generation is far more adapted to evolving technology than its predecessors, and have developed tastes to match. They expect a rich visual experience because they were born using glossy touch screen platforms with seamless multitasking. They expect interactive, well-conceived platforms, blending numerous visual mediums, that flow from one device to another with ease.

Innovations that their predecessors marveled at, and sometimes struggled with, have become the standard for Gen Z. Catering to a market that has such high expectations can seem intimidating. How does a company adapt to the rapidly evolving tastes and interests of Gen Z, and their expectations for their own user experiences?

THE “Z” MIND

The first step in understanding this generation is to dissect the basic concepts of what Gen Z finds appealing about certain platforms, and how businesses can adapt to these tastes.

A Gen Z user usually favors the following features:

  • 8 seconds: The information needs to be digestible in 8 seconds or less
  • Visual Oriented & Multiplatform
  • Shareable

Buzzfeed is a great example of what this generation is looking for in terms of user experience. Using this as a case study, let’s go over these features, in order to get into the mind of our Gen Z subject.

The 8 Second Rule

This generation has an eight-second attention span. They are able to parse data quickly, judging whether content is useful and relevant to them in even less time than millenials. That gives them a general unwillingness to read anything resembling a wall of text. If there is text, it has to look like there isn’t much. But at the same time, it can’t look like some spartan, 70’s sci-fi living room. The content for UX should be visually appealing and properly balanced on the page.

Simple and Balanced

Buzzfeed has perfected this form of simplicity without alienating it’s audience. A Gen Z user could be repulsed if they felt that content was being dumbed down for them, yet they favor brevity and directness. How does Buzzfeed manage to balance the UX content that neither dumbs things down, but is fast and easy to consume?

One word: Organization.

It all comes down to how Buzzfeed organizes their content. Starting with their homepage, the user is met with a massive selection of articles. There are quizzes, reviews, comedic shorts, and news articles about pressing issues. With its wide array of genres, Buzzfeed can catch the eye of the wandering Digital Native, by hitting on whatever mood they might be in.

Bite-sizing

The majority of Buzzfeed’s articles are extremely short—between 250 and 500 words. But even articles with heavier news content, are condensed into something short and to the point. Longer articles are broken up into sections with pictures, videos, or gifs to reorient the reader. That way even longer articles become 8-10 second digestible chunks.

Lists and Quizzes

The most popular formats for Buzzfeed articles are lists and quizzes.

Quizzes, with a range of between 7 and 10 questions, work for brevity. When one quiz is done, the user can quickly move to the next addictive quiz just by scrolling.

Lists are perhaps the most effective form of articles on Buzzfeed. They span from listing products to lifestyle tips, to pop culture controversy. Each item on the list is oriented by an image. With a bolded title, a list of items oriented by an image, and a few sentences providing details on why it was ranked the way it was, the user immediately sees the value without having to do any work. Though this lack of active engagement may deter some users, comments and reviews give users the chance to voice their opinions, either sharing, commenting, disagreeing or just giving simple feedback.

Visual & Multi-Platform

The articles are highly visual, colorful, and short. They follow a pattern of minimal text broken up by visual media like a video, picture, gif, or graphics. Though not necessarily a new format in and of itself, it’s effective among younger audiences because it allows for “breaks” while reading. The key to creating a more dynamic experience is to use more than just pictures—gifs, videos, charts, and other interactive material can enhance the visual impact of the page.

One thing you’ll notice about Buzzfeed quizzes is that both the images and the text explain the choices. What may seem to some as redundancy is actually an integral part of UX to Gen Z consumers. Traditional quizzes using only text choices is unappealing because it comes off as a wall of text. A purely visual quiz, on the other hand, could be too cryptic, a lot of work to understand. The solution is to balance visual and text elements to relieve the burden on readers, and allow for faster processing.

Shareability

What some older generations fail to understand is that Gen Z mainly uses their devices to build connections and socialize, even with people they see on a daily basis. The platforms they use should reflect the need to share and build connections with a community.

Buzzfeed includes the ability to comment or review after each quiz or article. This can be in text or with simple stickers or votes allowing quick visual reactions or more in-depth sharing of opinion. Reviews don’t just give an opinion about an article, but also allows interaction with a larger community.

Any sort of media a Gen Zer consumes must be easily shareable because they want to be able to share messages they care about, meaningless quiz results, and new products they find useful or amusing. Whatever a Gen Z user is consuming, they want to be able to easily pass it on from one person to the next. This generation responds better to a face they can interact with, as opposed to some faceless corporate identity. They want to feel like they are building a relationship with what they are doing online, as opposed to working or researching for some assignment.

NEXT GEN UX

Companies looking forward to new generations for business opportunities have to prepare their UX for the Gen Z consumer pool. UX experiences have to think about how to appeal to a new generation that will comprise of 40% of consumers. Failing at attracting this market, would mean being completely left behind.

Where to start then? First start with your website—it’s more than likely that a makeover is in order. A couple of rules of thumb: it must be visually appealing, sleek, and updated. The new consumer will require it to be simple to navigate and move rapidly between pages, while still maintaining a visually appealing layout. Most importantly maybe, the homepage has to grab the person’s attention within a critical eight seconds. Knowing this new generation’s tastes will be vital for helping a company engage this up and coming consumer base.