My partner and I had dinner with friends last night, and their daughters lurked on the stairs nearby listening to us gab and sing as we played cards. The girls had iPads and were bouncing around from app to app, savvy users at the age of eight. I know they’re old for me to be impressed, because they’ve been masters for years, but I loved watching them because a) they’re two really interesting spirits I’ve known since they were born, and b) it is incredibly neat that they are so comfortable with their games.
Designing apps for kids isn’t child’s play, advises Becky White, a UX (user experience) researcher. I appreciated White’s take on the merits of using participatory design with kids, because adult minds don’t think the same: “We all know how important it is to have empathy for your users. This is especially true when your users are toddlers.”
Understanding how kids will interact with an app or website is central to success. When it comes to visual design, a key factor is colour. “Go big bright and bold” says Rebecca Gross. With kids it’s all about vivid colours, images and sound, a point White agrees on.
Language is important as well. For younger ages, text is minimal, which makes sense if you’re designing for a pre-literate audience. As kids become readers, simple words work. Continuing to use imagery is vital, because this is how kids navigate.
Visuals are an integral part of design for all ages. Long gone are the days when websites were text heavy translations of print material. Adult users want to find information smoothly and easily too. The popular long scroll design uses plentiful imagery in design and navigation. Infographics in particular can be a great way to get people to links quickly.
Good development and design results in the user finding what they need easily. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. Last night’s laughter told me the designers of the girls’ apps got it right.
Image: Lisaleo, MorgueFile