This generation’s children are becoming more web-savvy as more and more children have access to the internet. Over the years, the growth in sites that cater to younger children has increased by leaps and bounds, and kids even as young as three years old can use the internet.
In the world of children oriented websites, the conventional rules of web design don’t quite work. There are many elements that live on child-oriented websites alone, for children are a whole different audience (rather, a whole different species in the world of design).
1. Bright and Lively Colors
Color combinations that are normally scoffed at in normal web design will actually be effective in a children’s website. Most children’s websites are lively, bright and cheerful. Don’t worry to go crazy with bright colors and weird combinations–the more offbeat, the better.
And yes, it seems like kids have more tolerance to clutter than adults. Color and high activity in the web site stimulates the child’s senses, which is effective for retaining their interest and attention.
Home of everyone’s favorite yellow sponge, Spongebob Squarepants.
Pictures, pictures, pictures
Pictures are important in children’s websites. Text should be used sparingly, it should be easy to understand and straightforward. You can emphasize language by adding relevant pictures.
2. Games and Activities
Most kid’s websites feature mini-games to keep kids entertained for long periods of time. These games are one of the main reasons why kids come back again and again to the website. Featuring games, quizzes and activities is perfect for retaining traffic to your site, making it popular among children and thus retaining their loyalty.
Most kid’s websites feature mini-games, to keep kids entertained for long periods of time. These games are one of the main reasons why kids come back again and again to the website.
Also know your gender group. Pattern the games and activities after the intended target. For example, girl’s games are often about dress up and playing house. Little girly girls love clothes, makeup, princesses and the color pink.
But it doesn’t mean that boys can’t enjoy ‘dressing up’–they can create and ‘dress up’ their own cars in the official Disney Pixar’s.
Games that Promote Education
Aside from entertainment, games can be used as a tool to educate, inform and allow interaction.
Nasa Kids Club>
A great educational site for kids to learn more about astronomy and space.
PBS Kids is a rich resource for educational games. Kids will love this site. Parents will love this site. The children are learning even when the kids are not intending to.
Printables, coloring pages and crafts are also important to sustain the fun, even if the child is not in front of the PC. These options are often available on the ‘Downloads’ Page.
3. Know your Age Group
Children can be divided into three groups according to age bracket: very young (ages 3-5), mid-range (6-8) and older kids (9-12) The different age groups have different activities, behaviors and interests. As kids grow older, they also get more web experience and knowledge.
Young Kids (3-5)
Cute characters, nature themes, clean colors and graphics are just some of the common elements found in web sites for young kids. Use of text is very minimal, instead compensating for buttons, graphics and sound.
Kids appreciate web site design that is rich in depth. 3D animation, rich shadows and highlights, subtle gradients are what composes this beautiful web design from Octonauts.
Coloring activities and printable color pages are popular especially for websites targeted to the younger age group.
- Mid-range Kids (6-8)
The older the child, the more proficient he/she is with reading. Consequently, more words appear in web design targeted to older kids. Sites also offer more challenging and varied games, now growing bored of the young kid’s simple games and one-task activities.
Older Kids (9-12)
Kids ages 9 to 12 are now more mature and experienced in web use. Older kids are bored with repetitive games, so it will take a deal more for them to come back again and again to a web site.
This means developers should craft sites that allow frequent visitation to the site. Games for older children should be more engaging and interactive, by means of which they now have more freedom to create their own characters, upgrade them, create houses for them, and compete in games with other online players. Websites for older teens should have the option to interact with other players but still providing the necessary security and privacy for the young users.
Responsible parenthood requires parents to supervise their kids on their net use.
3. Low Attention Span
But kid’s websites are often heavy (using Java and Flash) for they carry plenty of games, animations, sounds and music. To prevent kids from closing the site, websites create creative pre-loaders.
Pre-loaders offer your kids something interesting to look at while waiting for the whole page to load.
4. Ease of Navigation
Navigation in children’s websites must be oversimplified so that kids can navigate through it easily. Spatial navigation is important, thus the ‘map’ layout is popular among kid’s websites. Text-based links are not as effective compared to large buttons and graphical icons. Finally, children do little or no scrolling, so design websites with no scrolls, and be sure everything of relevance is located at the front page of the site.
The most important links are of course placed in the navigation bar. The navigation bar is a common element in web design, even so in kid’s web design. Kid’s websites tend to be unconventional and unique, but the navigation bar keeps for it keeps the important links organized. They are a constant element in the site, to ensure our young users won’t get lost amidst the maze.
Kids don’t use the search feature as often as adults, instead relying on bookmarks and clicking on buttons. Because of this, make navigation as simple as possible. Everything should be present at first sight.
The Map Layout
The layout of children-oriented websites can be more complicated because of their target market. While adults use the internet for information and communication, children log on to the internet for fun and entertainment.
A fun, Santa-themed website for kids with games and activities. The site allows kids to navigate through the North Pole. Fun places include the Elf School, Reindeer Barn and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen.
Spatial navigation is necessary for children’s websites. Kids want something that’s imaginative, but in a world that is real and familiar to them. Create creative layouts such as a room where you can click and interact with the objects.
5. Animated Animals and Characters
Interaction is vital for a child’s entertainment. Design a children’s website that offers plenty of stimulus such as sound, music, animation and videos. While most adults find music unnecessary and annoying, for kids it can make and break the website. The music and animation sets the mood and tone of the whole website.
An MMORPG winter-based world for kids age 6-14 where they can play games, customize their igloos and penguins.
In the Dr. Seuss site, whimsical music set the theme and environment of the entire site. The site looks exactly like the Dr. Seuss storybooks we have as a child.
Bob the Builder welcomes visitors to play games, to click on the trucks to see how they work or click on him to create something from start to end. Then it plays the familiar ‘Bob the Builder’ theme song in the background.
Designing for a children’s website is tremendously harder to develop and design, but more rewarding and fun. Designers learn to design and layout according to their audience’s behaviors, preferences and web experience.
When designing for children’s website, we learn:
- Website should have bright colors and a cheerful mood.
- Use minimal text and plenty of graphics and pictures. Stick to plain talk and be straightforward. Font size should be around 14 for younger kids, and 12 for older kids.
- Ease of navigation is key — navigation bar should be where it is most visible (like on the top), with heavy graphics and big buttons. Maps and open-ended environments offer kids freedom to roam and have fun.
- Kids click more than they type. Kids don’t do searches as often as adults do. When saving their favorite websites, they rely more on Bookmarks than Google.
- Animation, sound and music is integral in web design. Add sounds and animation that trigger upon hovering or clicking the mouse.
- Games are just as necessary. Printables and crafts as well. Games should be varied and plenty, fit for the age group.
- Give kids a chance to create their own characters and reward return users by giving them the option to personalize and upgrade them.
Rachel Arandilla is a curious subject -- she appreciates things that are quirky & clever. She loves spontaneity and adventure. She is a carefree soul, has a deep love for travel, culture and languages. And she's beginning to wonder she keeps on referring to herself in third person perspective.