James Marshall Head of Product 5 min read The children of today are the users of tomorrow, and their expectations are VERY different Considering all the attention and incorrect attribution Millennials receive as being children, you can be forgiven for forgetting there’s a Generation Z out there, yet alone that we’re now between 5-8 years into the next Generation; Gen Alpha. While Gen Z are distinguished as being those who grew up with the internet and smartphones as the norm, Gen Alpha have spent their infancy with this tech being widely available. Many young children today will have a tablet, rather than the television, as their babysitter meaning they will be as familiar with tech and touchscreens as the older generations will have been with books and magazines.Why This Matters As you can imagine, the needs of these new users will be completely different to those who had to learn how to use a smartphone or tablet. They will truly be the first generation for which swiping a screen will be more natural than turning a page. This is an important turning point for the future of tech, as the devices and software we use today are still generally based on real work equivalents designed to help users transition from analogue to digital. Google’s Material Design for instance, works heavily on the principles of layered sheets of paper to produce shadows and prominence, and the gesture of vertical swiping is based on the mouse wheel, which in turn is based around accommodating the broadsheet. Pretty much every piece of tech was designed to mimic a real physical counterpart and the promotion of web sameness has helped lock these design choices into place. Imagine now that you have a user to whom the idea of paper doesn’t mean anything, for whom a floppy disk is a 3D printed save icon and the idea of using complex gestures and voice assistants will be more natural than turning a page. When these children start using adult tech, they will basically be learning how to dumb themselves down to our level, and they won’t put up with it for long. A Brave New World Luckily, time is still on our side. Depending on the source, even the oldest members of Gen Alpha are still only 8 years old so we have time to learn and adapt. For inspiration, don’t be afraid to venture into the kids section of the app store and download a few games. A quick dip into the world of Toca Boca https://apps.apple.com/us/developer/toca-boca-ab/id419103351 will give you an understanding of how young users are engaging with technology right now. Standard UI elements that we take for granted or consider essential for User Experience and accessibility are often missing or function differently. Help and tutorials are also rare as to Gen Alpha, swiping, tapping and pinching is second nature and animations and gestures don’t have to be uniform sizes or specific icons for it to make sense. It’s a brave new world and whether we like it or not, these new normals will fuel the next design revolution. Summary Children have always been naturals with technology. I remember being 6 years old and the only member of the family who could figure out the new TV remote or program the VCR. Children view technology with intrigue and curiosity rather than seeing it as a hurdle to overcome, and if we are all still carrying smartphones in 10 years time they will view design standards very differently to how we do. The world of tech moves quickly and nothing stays the same for long. Let’s face it, it’s because of this most of us in the industry have a job. Every day we have to learn something new to keep our heads above the water, if we don’t, we quickly fall behind, stagnate and our clients go elsewhere. We may think we have a good idea of what laptops and devices will be capable of in 10 years time but it is still a best guess, and who knows what and when the next game changing product (like the original iPhone did in 2007) will land and turn us all into amatures overnight. In conclusion, don’t panic or throw out your current designs. Just be prepared to play around with the most popular releases in the kids section of the app store from time to time. Be aware of how young users prefer to engage with these apps and that things will change, and this change will come from the influence of those entering the market and joining the industry rather than those already at the top.