Designing for Children

Designing for Children

I just stumbled across this useful post titled “Designing for Children” from the firm Information & Design, based in Melbourne, Australia. The article provides some great information that may help you as you begin thinking about bringing your children’s book to life in the digital world. Examine the points they present below and how your considerations must change based on where your audience fits within the early primary, later primary, and high school years.

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from: Information & Design

Key Considerations

“Children” constitute a widely diverse range of behaviors and ability. Children are highly social, dependent on peers for feedback, and highly conscious of their relationship with the adult world.

Online behavior shows an extreme disinclination to read extraneous information, and an expectation of immediate response from user interfaces. Trends mean that rapid changes in online preferences are likely. For many children, computers and mobile devices are synonymous with games. A more “serious” focus emerges in later high school years. Contrary to popular belief, children are not imbued with an innate understanding of digital technologies.

General principles

  • Provide age-appropriate materials.
  • Be cautious of designing for exceptional children. Inclusive design practices will enable the broadest possible range of children to participate in your technology.
  • Leverage knowledge children may have gained on social networking sites and games.
  • Maintain frequent contact with your target user groups, so that you can understand trends and changing behaviors.

Early primary years

  • In early primary years, children will be pre-literate or have very limited reading skills. Typing their names is a major achievement.
  • Use text redundantly with images so that pre-literate users can access your product.
  • Use simple text.
  • Use fonts that approximate how children learn to write. For example, many fonts use “a” and “q” in variants that do not match how some children are taught to write those letters.
  • Do not use dialog boxes.
  • Don’t require explicit “save” operations. Save work automatically.
  • Exclude extraneous content.
  • Provide highly interactive and engaging applications.
  • Avoid visually noisy interfaces – they are distracting.
  • Provide large target areas.
  • Allow children to personalize.
  • If applications will be used on a smart-board, do not use a footer that can be accidentally activated by children leaning against the surface.
  • Avoid errors.
  • Support cooperative use, with two or more children using your product at the same time.
  • Design to support teachers and parents or guardians, who are likely to be assisting or supervising usage.

Later primary years

  • In later primary school, skills develop rapidly, but there is wide variance between children of the same age.
  • Use simple text.
  • Provide content that appears more “grown up” than that for early primary years.
  • Provide time-saving shortcuts.
  • Leverage knowledge children may have from social media and popular games.
  • Avoid appearing to patronize.
  • Apply sensible defaults.

High school years

  • Provide more sophisticated personalization capability.
  • Support social networking.
  • Don’t attempt to appropriate or emulate children’s behavior or speech (this is likely to backfire).
  • Provide increasingly “grown-up” content towards later years.

The site also provides a useful PDF (download here) of an organized chart of the information above:

[download id=”35″ format=”7″]

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Want to read more about designing for children?

Here’s a short list of places to start:

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