Laurence Veale

PRINCIPAL UX DESIGNER

User Experience Design for Kids, part 2: Design age appropriately

When designing for kids, you can't go wrong with classic user-centred design - knowing your audience and designing for their needs.

In the first part of this series, I discussed how kids are different. Not just different from adults, "the digital immigrants" but how they're different from each other: which leads me to designing for the appropriate age group.

This is where classic user-centred design comes in - knowing your audience and designing for their needs, as opposed to making condescending assumptions. It also means not designing too young or indeed too old.

Let's take a look at people who get it.

The Beeb

The Beeb have a number of channels each with programmes suited to specific age groups. This is also reflected in their suite of websites.

As you can see from the above, we have websites which differ in content and design for the age group they are designed for.

Looking at Nick Jr.

Now, for the purposes of contrast, let's take a look at Nick Jr. - a website aged at preschoolers (under 6).

On the face of it, they’re nurturing my child’s development with their very own curriculum, which as a parent, really appeals to me.

However, via the "more" link in the top global navigation, in just a few short clicks, I’m introduced to Candy.

Who is Candy? Well, she’s the Naughty Cheerleader who is “likes to drive you crazy”...and who ”is looking so hot that you can’t resist her charms”.

But hey! it’s okay, you’re going to “use your brain to chase away your classmates so you can have some private time along with your secret passion” so perhaps it is educational after all. An introduction to gynaecology, perhaps.

Update: Nick Jr. has since removed this link since I drafted this post which I'm delighted to see.

From the examples above, hopefully you can see how important designing age appropriately is. And how, in designing for multiple age groups, it may also be necessary to clearly delineate the boundaries between those groups and make it hard to cross those boundaries.

Next week: I'll look at Club Penguin, the social network/massively multiplayer role-playing game for kids to see what we can learn from it.

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