Designing a Child Friendly Website (Examples and Practices)
Adults in general are very technical and are more aware at solving problems. We have bills to pay, appointments to make, and so on. Kids on the other hands are worry free and love to discover new things as they grow. As easy at it may sound, designing for kids is much harder than you think. This is not your regular website that you browse daily. This is a whole different new dimension of internet space.
Apart from adults, who usually use the web to stay informed and work, children go online for entertainment. They see the computer as a gateway to fun and play. Also kids are very great at remembering something they like. I’m not too old, and I remember back in fifth grade I used to visit Yahooligans (a kid section on Yahoo.com for children) to play games. Yes make fun of me all you want, but I schooled kids in online checkers and chess. Looking back at it now, I clearly see that the only reason I kept going back to the site, is because it’s the only games site I knew. They captured my attention and I was hooked!
Before we jump to inspiration we wanted to cover some of the most important element to keep at mind while designing. Below we have listed an outline for you to follow.
- Slow and Old Computers
- Kids are easy Distracted
- Using Bright and Lucid Colors
- Navigation and Interaction
- Designing for Different Age Groups
Image Credit: Moxiebird.com
Apart from experience, I have a younger sibling, so that should give you some proof that I have a good idea of what I’m talking about. While watching his show the other day, I saw a very interesting point made on a commercial. The commercial invited children to visit a website with their parents and play games online. Now in the commercial you could clearly see the mother holding the child while playing the game on their laptop. So in my mind the website clearly has to be easy to use for younger and older age groups.
Having a parent section on the website is decisive. Usually since adults are more capable of navigating you can have a smaller button place either in the header, sidebar, or footer. It does not need to be big and flashy, just a simple button will be fine. Children are hard to argue with, and if they gotta have something they will bug you to death until you get it for them.
The truth is every parent loves their child and will buy anything (as long as it’s within their budget) for them. Companies already know this, and will probably have an e-commerce side of the website ready. If you are in charge of the e-commerce side of things, remember to keep the checkout process smooth and convenient in order to enable more sales.
Slow and Old Computers
Image Credit: Luuux.com
With the advancement of technology low income families are able to afford computers. This advancement helps internet grows as whole and provides us with more users to serve. Keeping in mind that children do not have a “state of the art” PC or Mac. They have standard computers that are usually cheaper than $500. Just from this alone we are able to see that first of the parents don’t want to invest too much money on teenagers as they tend to care less and break things. Second of we are able to interpret that the computers they purchase do not have the fastest processor nor a great amount of RAM.
Not only are the computers slow at home, but are probably slow at school as well. Most of the schools have desktops that are 7-8 years old. We all know that public schools don’t have the money to purchase high quality PC’s or Mac’s. Not saying that they can’t, but with this current economy I’m sure their funds are limited. Optimizing the website for speed and using a CDN is the smartest route to go.
Kids are Easily Distracted
Children are very sensitive to moving/flashing objects. We know that they can be easily distracted, thus helping you attract them for a longer browsing experience. Adults are already used to banner-ads, so they are already trained to ignore them. Children on the other hand, are extremely vulnerable to ads.
Advertisers love this, because children cannot distinguish between the website content and advertisement. Website owners on the other hand get frustrated, because the child has left their website. Sure they make some money, but their number one goal most likely are pageviews. So keep this in mind: Don’t over do the website with ads!
Using Bright and Lucid Colors
While searching, we noticed a common element that most of the websites below share. All sites contain countless amounts of bright-colored images. Kid’s are usually drawn to click or look at the most eye catching things. This will create a memorable experience that will keep them coming back. Nobody likes a sad website, so keeping all of the characters happy and smiling is a must. We are not saying that a smile should be placed on every characters face, just a happy mood in general.
Children are very used to from nature. Incorporating them into the website will create a natural look and feel. What to incorporate you ask? Things like trees, water, snow, animals, home, vehicles, school, store, toys, seasons, clothes and much more. You can also use this to your advantage for call to action buttons. Ask yourself/client what do you want them to do when they visit the website? The answer will decide in which direction the design should be headed.
Navigation and Interaction
Designing websites for adults can be hard sometimes. On the flip side, what happens when you have to design a site for somebody totally out of your line of thinking? Children tend to be simple-minded, your process of though is far different from theirs. Children tend to be more visual. So designing icon oriented buttons rather than text will only benefit the finished product.
Most of the websites below are big brand names that are well known. So you can probably imagine their budget for a well designed website. They spent thousands of dollars developing and A-B testing different versions of their website. There is no one golden way a kid orianted website should be, but there are many opinions/routes one can follow. You can use larger than life characters, typography, and buttons to your advantage.
Children do not like to read unless they are in a classroom. Argue with me all you want, but this is completely true. Very seldomly you will get a child that is more interested in reading than playing games. So what are some ways that children can interact on the website?
- Interactive Reading
If there is some sort of a purchase angle to the website, then you job becomes to convince the moms and dads that that buying from a kids site is simple and proessional. You’re actually catering for 2 diverse groups: the influencer and the decision maker. Getting this right really floats my boat.
Designing for Different Age Groups:
Image Credit: Nomediogrekids.blogspot.com
Here are the focal points for the different age groups. You will need to figure out which target market are you designing for. From that decision you will understand the intelligence of that group. After the age of 16, teenagers are able to use complex websites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Wikipedia, and much more. Believe it of not with the frequent changes that Facebook’s keeps implementing, I even get lost sometimes.
- 4-7 years old
- 8-11 years old
- 12-15 years old
- 16+ years old
Things to remember:
- Use bright colors
- Use characters
- Have a happy mood
- Create depth in the design
- Image based navigation
- Low loading times
- User interaction
- Use video and games
- Include printable elements
Now that you’ve got some good knowledge, check out the following websites that are designed correctly!
1. Kids National Geographic
3. Cartoon Network
4. PBS Kids
7. Toys R Us
8. Fisher Price
10. Yo Gabba Gabba
11. Sesame Street Live