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In marketing to teenagers, playing safe is one of the easiest ways to fail. Being boring is the other.
Long gone are the days when teens flocking to the mall were less than welcome by sales staff worried they would keep paying customers away. With an estimated $200 billion in buying power, and almost half of that spent online, teens are a demographic no longer to be ignored. And in designing websites that cater to teens, it never hurts to review what works and what doesn’t in capturing their interest and dollars.
Bright is beautiful
If there’s one thing teens absolutely abhor, it’s boredom. So a cardinal rule in designing for teens is to grab their attention, hold it and keep them engaged. Bright colors like orange, yellow, blue and green tend to work well while grays and blacks typically don’t. A simple, clear and intuitive interface is a must.
Lights, camera, action
Slideshows, videos, images. Because teens grew up with computers and the Internet, they’re a much more tech savvy generation than their parents. Since the Internet is something teens use everyday, whether it’s for homework, music, socializing or a myriad of other reasons, they’re just not as easily impressed.
Less text, more interest
Since most teens have relatively short attention spans, too much text will send them packing. Make sure text is large enough for easy reading and set it against a high contrast background. Bulleted lists and divided sections help make it more digestible.
Keep them engaged
Teens like websites that keep them engaged and make them feel a part of a community, so online contests, polls, and quizzes can be a good drawing card. Collaborative activities such as list making can be good, as well. If registration is required for participation, be sure to keep it simple and straightforward. Teens don’t have patience for even slightly long or tedious forms.
Watch your tone
Teens look to the Internet for more than just entertainment and socializing. Whatever the content – style, sports, current events – it’s important to keep the tone casual and easy since an authoritative tone can easily turn teens off.
As it is with the rest of the world, so is it with teens when it comes to the growing popularity of mobile devices. And designing for the desktop alone just isn’t an option if trying to attract the teen market. Instead, designers must incorporate responsive design in creating websites that work across a variety of platforms and devices.
Make shopping easy
While teens can be prone to impulse buying, they are also very price-conscious. If your site sells products, provide the ability to easily sort those products by price. If the site incorporates an outlet section, give it high visibility. Make checkout as quick, easy and simple as possible and never require teens create an account to purchase. The more information you ask for and the more forms they have to fill, the greater the chance they’ll take their business elsewhere.
Choice is good
Even if teens do everything they can to not stand out, they still like to feel that what they buy expresses their individuality. Whether it’s earbuds or shirts, the more options the better. And the ability to add a monogram or other personal touch won’t hurt sales, either.
Stale doesn’t sell
While it goes without saying for any age group, keep the content fresh or there’s no reason for anyone to keep coming back. It’s especially true for sites catering to teens. Most professionals recommend updates to category and home pages at least several times a week.
The need for speed
Patience is a virtue – just not of teens. While it can be difficult to find a balance between a site that’s loaded with video, graphics and interactive elements and one whose pages load in the blink of an eye, it’s worth the effort. Slow is simply no go for teens.
Help fulfill wishes
Taking their lead from bridal registries, wish lists are becoming standard on retail sites. They make it easy for teens to list items they would like from parents, relatives and friends at Christmas and birthdays and make it easy for gift givers to purchase those items.
Act their age
Make sure you understand your audience. While you don’t want to bore your audience by being too adult, you also don’t want to use graphics, multimedia and language that’s remotely childish. Teens will run from a site with kiddie stuff even faster than sites that cater to mom and dad. Get some input from teens as you build the site and get feedback from users to help keep you on the mark.
For all their differences, one area in which teens and their parents are on the same wavelength is that of social networking. Comments and messages on Facebook and Twitter tweets have virtually replaced email for teens. And websites wanting to reach the teen market can benefit by incorporating those and other social networks.
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