We design an application for the Z generation

When they want to know what’s going on with their friends, they check Snapchat or Instagram Stories. Emergency situation? They’ll write on Messenger before they call. And at bedtime, the last thing they watch is YouTube, not TV. Who are we talking about? About the generation Z – the generation that is on the verge of entering adulthood and which should be of particular interest to mobile application developers, businessmen and innovators.

“Mobile Applications 2019” report by SpicyMobile

Who is the Z generation and where is it going?

Generation Z are people born in 1997 1 and later (although you can also find definitions covering the years 1995 or 2000, hence it is worth paying attention to the characteristics). They are said to be “born with a smartphone in their hands,” because they’ve been living in the world of technology since they were children, and they don’t see the difference between the offline and online world – for them it’s one space. Their communication contains a lot of emoticons, gifs, is concise and very visual. As a result, their favorite applications are Instagram, Youtube, Messenger and the growing TikTok (formerly known under the brand – a platform for mounting short videos with background music, which you can share with friends, importantly – up to 65% of users of this platform belong to generation Z 2). Regardless of this short description, it is worth paying attention to a few other facts that characterize the youngest generation 3

  • 96% of people declare that they have a smartphone,
  • 60% admit that they will not use a website and application that is too slow, 
  • 29% admitted that they use their phone every day after midnight 4
  • 25% of consumer spending comes from the generation Z, 
  • in 2020, generation Z will constitute 33% of the world’s population (in Poland, it is estimated that the number of people born after 1995 is about 9 million, which is 23.5% of the country’s population!).

These numbers will only increase. What does this mean for mobile application developers and more – what does it mean for the whole business?

MOBILE-FIRST – the only right choice

Considering that the majority of the generation Z use mobile applications and smartphones more often than desktops, the time of treating the mobile version as an add-on slowly ends in favor of the “mobile first” approach.

Users want to be able to reach services without being limited by space or time. For application developers, this means rethinking the structure of the service so that it does not force unnecessary use of the desktop or a long process that cannot be interrupted in the mobile version. Generation Z is even more multithreaded and performs “by the way” actions. Therefore, it is crucial to facilitate their return to the process at the point of its interruption, and not force them to start from the very beginning. At the same time, we have to remember to keep it light and simple – keep in mind that 60% of the generation Z declared that they do not use applications and websites that run “too slowly” 5.

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    Financial management, traveling and education

    According to reports on generation Z, these three topics will be among the most desirable 6. Are new solutions developers and representatives of these industries ready for a new generation?

    “As a person with a limited budget, I would like to have control over my expenses” 7

    The representatives of the youngest generation, despite generating more and more revenue in mobile channels, are very aware of the need to manage their finances and absorb knowledge in this area. They do not only care about managing their funds in a convenient way, but also want to consciously make rational choices and understand what their options are and what the consequences will be.

    Male, 20 years old, Quote from research conducted by Project: People on financial applications for Generation Z on the “financial application of the future”.

    Interestingly, during the research carried out by Project: People on the topic of financial applications of the future, very often as one of the most important functionalities, there were offers for spending analysis and budget planning divided into categories and time intervals – functions that can already be found in some banking apps. Maybe this should be an inspiration to reflect on the topic of making them more accessible to younger users?

    Another interesting conclusion from research and reports is the Generation Z’s readiness for financial education. We cannot help but wonder, which financial (banking?) application in Poland will bend over this area to provide young generations not only with financial management tools, but also knowledge about them, provided in an accessible way. Maybe the future will be contextual and personalized tips on our private budget?

    Travels with smathphone in hand

    Saving time is also important for the new generation while traveling – access to tickets, place reviews or trip planning are just one of many activities in this area that interest users from this group. After all, most of these activities are performed while on the move, not in front of the computer. In the context of travel, it is also worth remembering about the aspect of recommendations. The youngest generation is happy to share recommendations and photos of places they go to. However, on the other hand, instead of browsing the entire internet in search of the best cafe, they will simply put a question on their social media profiles, expecting specific suggestions from their friends. It remains to be considered whether this trend may be used in our application.

    From ownership to access

    Generation Z also has a much more pragmatic approach than its predecessors, Millenials. It expects broader access to pre-purchase information or the opportunity to try something out without obligation. They know that they do not need to own a car to drive it (because there are car sharing solutions, like Traficar, there is also Uber), buy CDs of their favorite artists to listen to their songs (they have a Spotify subscription), or a TV to watch new series (since there is Netflix). The transition from the “product ownership” model to “access to the service” also changes the approach to the business model of the application, more and more often as part of a broader offer, rather than the product itself.

    It is also worth paying attention to the need to change the way of building the process of “entering” the application – younger generations are happy to check the product or service before using, very much appreciating tailoring the service to their needs and requirements, hence it is worth considering whether it is necessary to create an account and passing the verification process in our application, which might be a certain barrier for the user. Here, an interesting example of a solution is the Tik-Tok application, which is very popular among this generation, which allows us to view the latest content before creating an account (so we can “test the service”), and only when we want to interact with it – encourages the user to join society.

    High five with the youngest generation

    Where should you start designing application for the generation Z? From not reading the reports, or rather – not just reports. Generation Z differs from generation Y (born in 1980-1996) not only by date of birth, but above all by motivations, behaviors, goals, habits or values – all these elements at the level of empathy that are hard to capture in reports. All publications are a very good source of inspiration and interesting insights, we will learn about the characteristics of the generation, learn more about market penetration or interest in specific applications. However, to better understand the motives of generation Z consumers activities, it is also worth considering qualitative research. All the more that this generation is extremely interesting – also in terms of research.

    Contact with representatives of the generation Z should be maintained not only at the stage of understanding the user or creating persona, but if we would like to create a solution dedicated specifically for this generation, then also during implementation, consulting the next elements of the project. Thanks to this, we will be sure that at some point we have not gone astray, passing our insights through the filters of our own generation. Or maybe we dare to go a step further and invite the young generation to interpret the results and create ideas for solutions as part of creative workshops.

    Interviews with users…via Messenger?

    Project: Hajsy DOSHły 

    Project description: A financial application addressed to the generation Z, which combines a virtual prepaid card, a mobile application for account management and a chatbot on Messenger for supporting basic actions, developed as a prototype/concept of a solution based on the possibilities associated with the introduction of the PSD2 directive. The DOSH application project was implemented using the five-day Google Design Sprint process. At the “Discovering (user and problem)” stage, in order to map users and their problems, we conducted research with users – representatives of the generation Z. Interestingly, Messenger interviews were much more effective than standard user interviews (IDI – individual in-depth interviews). Not only did they last longer (there were conversations that lasted 4 hours continuously!), but also the respondents provided more open answers and communicated much more freely (as Messenger is their “natural environment”). Messenger interviews also had several other advantages in this case – they allowed us to very accurately analyze the vocabulary used by the generation Z and gave us free access to the group as well as the possibility of returning to it as part of testing of subsequent project elements.

    3 steps to create a good application

    To sum up the process of designing applications for the generation Z, it is worth paying attention to several aspects in order to avoid some of the critical threats that appear:

    • Emphatization. Before you start creating a new application, really get familiar with the generation Z – not only through reports, but also through interviews, workshops, surveys, etc (it’s best to use at least two of these methods). There is a big risk that when designing a new solution we will try to create a project “for the younger version of ourselves”, and not actually for the current generation Z.
    • Defining the problem. Don’t judge, don’t over interpret. Each generation is different, and if we want to create a successful application, we should focus on the problems of our target group. This may also be the point where we invite generation Z to cooperate. 
    • Generating ideas and building prototypes. It is worth collecting as much information as possible about the current alternatives used by our target group and testing any ideas together with the group in order to make any changes on a regular basis. This solution can also allow us to build a strong competitive advantage.

    The above areas are the most common sources of problems in creating the wrong products. If we try to eliminate these three biggest threats from our process, maybe we will create another application, most often mentioned by the generation Z?


    1. Definition for Pew Research Center 
    2. GetHero, report „Who are Polish TIKTOK users”, January 2019 
    3. CommScope, report „Generation Z”, 2017 
    4. The Center for Generational Kinetics, 
    5. IBM,
    6. CommScope, report „Generation Z”, 2017 
    7. Quote from Project: People research on financial applications for the Z generation; statement by a man, aged 20, about the financial application of the future 
    8. CommScope, report „Generation Z”, 2017

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