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How to Design UX for Kids
2019-04-29
Old Moon Digital

When it comes to designing a user-friendly application for children, there are a lot of steps to take. You just can’t design an app for a kid through the lens of what adults would like in the context of user experience.

Kids are one of the fastest growing users of the web. Learning how to build the UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) of your website or app for children is something to consider.

But how do we go about this? What do kids want when it comes to an app or website user experience? We’re going to cover it all. But first, let’s look into why you should be considering the user experience of kids.

Why Design UX for Kids?

To put it simply, kids use the internet. Kids consume technology close to as much as adults do. They use it for communication, homework, games, and entertainment. So it only makes sense that developers should look at how their application’s user experience caters to young people who may be utilizing the app.

Before looking at how to do this, some context matters. The age of the children who are using your application also plays into how user-friendly your application should be.

How Age Groups Relate to User-Friendliness

The age groups we’ll be looking at here span from age six to age eleven.

  • Six years old. This is the pre-operational stage of brain development. Children at this age can understand symbols and shapes and images, but when it comes to reading comprehension and reasoning, they are still trying to figure it out. This group will have some vocabulary but ultimately will be able to read a little bit. For an application or website, take into consideration how calls to action, feedback, and navigation tools can be made simple enough for a child at this stage.
  • Seven to nine years old. Kids in this age range are in what is called the “concrete” operational stage. Logical thoughts and mind-working are easier for kids at this age. Reading is still a work in progress, but kids in this age range can understand vocabulary, complex sentences, and most words. Still, when developing a website, stick to symbols and pictures. These are much easier for children in this range to understand rather than blocks of text.
  • Nine to eleven years old. This is the age where kids become proficient at using touchscreen technology and can understand UI capabilities. You should still make visuals the primary mode of navigation for this age group, but more copy and blocks of text can be used as children in this age range can handle and comprehend it.

With the context of age in mind and by knowing the age of your users, you can move on to actual design and development. It helps to run ideas by a group of children testers and have them physically engage with the prototype before moving on to more solid development.

Children are great as testers because they will make it very clear if something isn’t working for them. It would also be wise to have some parents and teacher testers involved as well, as they’ll also likely be using the application with their children.

How to Design UX for Kids

There are numerous factors to consider when designing functions on a website or app for children.

Colour

Colour can absolutely be used to help child users engage and communicate with the app.

The attention of very young children can be caught by bright colours in the primary category, as their eyesight is still developing. Bright colours can stand out in their visual field. Still, extremely basic primary colours may feel too babyish to some children. The best way to go is to provide a mix of bright primary colours and deeper muted colours. When it comes to the nine to eleven age group, muted and more “adultish” colours are preferred.

This guide may prove helpful when developing a palette:

  • Six years old. Bright orange, mauve, fuchsia, baby blue, coral.
  • Seven to nine years old. Muted orange, deep violet, teal, bright green, greyish blue.
  •  Nine to eleven years old. Grey, deep blue, mustard yellow, very deep violet, teal.

Text

Use children’s books as inspiration here. You’ve probably noticed that books designed for the really young children have minimal text, but where the text is, it’s bold and large in font. This goes back to the developing eyesight issue we mentioned earlier. Bigger font size and increasing the line height of sentences will be easier on young children’s eyes, especially through a screen.

If your website or application is designed for children of various ages, try implementing a font-changing button that is easy to find and understand.

Remember to keep the vocabulary simple as well. We may be able to understand terms like “link” and “search options,” but a six-year-old won’t understand what this means. There’s no real solution to this issue other than to experiment with simple terms in the navigation and then running a demo with children testers. If it’s easy to understand, kids will definitely let you know.

For applications that are designed for very young children, keep the use of copy extremely minimal and opt for symbols and shapes as modes of communication instead.

Functionality

Cognitive reasoning is still being worked out by very young children, so it’s vital that the functionality and themes of one’s website or app are very simple. By having an ultra-simple layout, distraction and confusion are no longer an issue. Getting a kid to pay attention to something is no easy task, so you’ll really have to consistently test your layouts to see if children are able to use your app and use it without needing a lot of help.

Go in a minimalist direction and keep the number of headers, sidebars, footers, etc. to a minimum. Provide your users with a project that they won’t be overwhelmed by.

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