We talked a lot lately about involving children in the design process of websites and apps that are targeted at them. They key word here is Child-Centered Design. CCD helps you to (1) get to you know your target-age group – ideally before you even get started on your concept, (2) get inspired by the unbiased creativity of children, and (3) continuously validate your ideas throughout the design process.
A Child-Centered design approach ensures that you build websites and apps that:
1. Kids will love. Apps that are fun are more engaging, more likely to be upgraded, and recommended to friends.
2. Teachers will love. Apps that are easy to use are more effective and thus more valuable for educational purposes.
3. Parents will love. Age-appropriate apps have a positive impact and offer a safe environment for learning and entertainment.
4. Stakeholders will love. Apps that meet your business goals keep all stakeholdes happy and most of all, they stay within your budget.
The benefits of CCD sound very nice and appealing. However, people tend to take risks much more serious than chances and opportunities. For a change, let’s take a look at Child-Centered Design from a different perspective.
Here are 8 major risks you are willing to take for your product when not involving your target age group in the development process:
1. Kids won’t like it
For kids – just like for adults – the first impression counts. If your website or app doesn’t instantly appeal to your target age group, you’ll have a hard time to grab their attention.
Remember that kids use media mainly for entertainment. They are not looking for a tool to increase their productivity or boost their performance. They are simply looking for fun.
If you can’t convince them that your website or app is fun, don’t expect them to get excited about it.
2. Kids won’t find your content
Most kids lack the experience that adults have when it comes to navigating a website or app. Adults have acquired certain schemata of how a website should be structured. We have certain expectations of what content to find where.
Kids on the other hand don’t have these expectations yet. If content is not expected – or if your content structure is too complicated, kids will get distracted or give up before getting to your content.
Kids usually lack the intrinsic motivation to keep focused. Even if your content is top edge, if your design isn’t intuitive for your target age group, they won’t find it.
3. Kids won’t be able to use it
Kids are still developing – on a social, cognitive, and physical level. While adults can mostly be generalized regarding their physical abilities, for kids there are huge differences that need to be considered.
It starts with their overall size, the size of their hands, and how they approach and hold a device. For example, if you don’t mind the edges on your iPad app, kids will tab on links by accident – simply because they need that space to hold the tablet.
Also mouse and keyboard interactions can be a true challenge for children. While adults have had years of practice, kids are still getting used to those input devices. Besides, their fine motor skills are still limited, making it even more challenging to hit small targets or to double click.
If your website or app doesn’t consider the physical limitations of your target age group, don’t be surprised if kids give up on it.
4. Kids will get frustrated
Kids have a very low level op patience. While adults often blame themselves for not understanding the interaction, kids will always blame technology.
Children nowadays grow up using digital media. In their perception, technologies are just there and they can be good and bad. Good technology can be fun and entertaining. Bad technology on the other hand is needless and gets replaced quickly.
If your website or app isn’t intuitive, but causes kids to get frustrated, be prepared that they will stop using it
5. Kids won’t use it for long
Even if you manage to appeal to your target age group and get them excited about your website and app – if you don’t keep them engaged over time, they won’t use your product for long.
It is essential for the long-term success of your product that your content matches the expectations, abilities and limitations of your target age group. Content that is too simple will quickly get boring. Content that is too complex will lead to frustration.
If your website or app doesn’t offer the right mix of success and challenge, you won’t get kids hooked for the long term.
6. Kids won’t tell their friends about it
Especially starting around age 8, kids start comparing themselves with their peers. Peers also become important for forming an own identity form a clear idea of what’s hip and what isn’t.
You will want your website or app to be hip to make sure your users tell their friends about it. At the same time, you don’t want your users to tell their friends your product is lame – because this can cause a snowball effect of bad publicity.
If your website or app doesn’t engage and appeal to your target age group, don’t expect it to become popular.
7. Parents and teachers won’t like it
Parents and teachers want kids to use digital media in a responsible and positive way. To them it matters that your product is easy to use and effective – e.g. in educating kids about something.
Keep in mind that adults will eventually be those who pay for your product. By getting kids engaged through websites and apps that are fun, easy to use, and age-appropriate, you are already a long way towards selling your product.
If your products are not designed with your target age group in mind, don’t expect parents and teachers to pay for it. There are already plenty of free, low-quality products out there.
8. Stakeholders won’t be happy
Without a Child-Centered Design approach, there is a fair chance that other stakeholders within the company won’t be happy with the final product.
That might be because (1) expert or general reviews will not be as positive as hoped for, (2) extra budget is necessary to implement late changes, (3) Sales are not as high as expected, or (4) renewals are long in coming.
If your product is not designed with your target age group in mind, don’t expect to meet your business goals.
Child-Centered Design has lots of advantages. At the same time, the lack of the same comes with major risks to the success of your product. Websites and apps for kids that (1) have not been tested with kids or (2) were not designed with the target age group in mind risk to be:
- Unappealing to kids
- Difficult to use for kids
- Impossible to use for kids
- Frustrating for kids
- Boring for kids
- Unpopular among kids
- Unpopular among parents and teachers
- A disaster for stakeholders
While advantages of CCD might sound like “nice to haves”, the risks that come with ignoring kids in the design process should be avoided by all means. UX research is not an option anymore – it’s key to any successful website or app for kids.