Justifying a good User Experience for kids

Why does an established Dutch news company invest its money in the user experience of the non-commercial kids’ version of their product? One reason surely is the company’s social responsibility and desire to make news accessible to everyone, including kids. At the same time, it is a very strategic set to ensure future exposure and a loyal user base.

Children are one of the biggest consumer groups of digital products worldwide. This generation (Gen Z, born between 2000-2015) is born into a world full of digital technologies. They are used to instant gratification and only use the best products available to fulfill their needs and desires.

If you have a product aimed at children, key to its success is therefore, a great user experience. An important ingredient for the UX is understanding your users’ motivations and needs. Through user research, you gain insights into the users’ needs and desires. It foresees you with a clear direction on the user experience requirements of your product.

For the Dutch news company mentioned above, it implies investment in user research on children’s needs for news consumption. Research provides them with insights for improving the kids news edition. Educating children in the consumption of news through a playful and user-friendly experience will enlarge user satisfaction and strengthen brand loyalty. This will pay off for the investment in the future, when kids become users of the adult version of the product.

Fortunately, in most cases, we don’t have to wait years for kids to grow up before we can see the effects of good user experience.

Since children rarely have their own money and are not the ones to make actual purchase decisions, you would assume that they do not have any spending power. Fair enough. However, their indirect influence on the purchase decision of adults is tremendous. Let’s take a look at what that means.

1# Kids influence their parents' buying decisions.

In the domestic environment, parents are in charge of purchasing products. When doing so, they will consider aspects such as necessity, price, durability, etc. But also, parents are happy to buy products that satisfy their children. Especially when it comes to (digital) products they purchase for their kids, parents are on the hunt for child and user-friendly products that are advantageous to the child’s development. Preferably products that allow for (independent) play in a safe and protected online environment. When it comes to finding the best products for children, parents turn to other parents for information or read on forums about what to buy and not to buy. In short, good user experience increases the likelihood that positive experiences are spread among parents.

2# Great user experiences stimulate the purchase decision of teachers.

Teachers (and schools) are another decision-maker in purchasing products for children. Within the school environment, a need for child and user-friendly educative media is rising. Teachers admire products that need as little explanation as possible. An online environment should allow pupils to navigate independently. A great user experience is fun, user friendly and efficient. If the UX design allows for easy use without explanation, teachers will become your best friend. Hence, they are more likely to share experiences among teachers or school communities. Which automatically grows the number of users and thus ensures your return on investment.

So the extent to which kids like a product can be leading on whether or not adults purchase it. However, kids also share their experience with peers and therefore have a huge impact on the product’s durability itself. If children adore a product, they enthusiastically talk about the product to peers. From 9-10 years onwards, peer recommendations are increasing¹.

Social media is a place where people share today’s experiences with a worldwide audience. For Gen Z social media is an important part of to their everyday activities. A good story or experience is worth sharing with friends, thus more potential users. At the same time, kids won’t hesitate to share bad experiences either, which can hurt and even damage your brand.

The secrets of a child-friendly UX design

So the user experience decides whether or not kids will become advocates for your product. A flawless user experience, meaning one without errors and bugs is a pleasure to use. Happy users are more likely to: 1) buy a product, 2) return to a product and 3) share their experiences.

Whereas adults rely on intrinsic motivation to complete a goal, even though they have to force themselves through a complex interface. Children do like to engage with products of which the content just slightly varies from their cognitive and social-emotional competencies. Explorative interfaces with clues to click on are fun for children. A child spends on average 10 minutes in an online environment. If they are not able to find clues in the very first seconds, they will probably drop out and most certainly never return.

By now you must have been wondering: ‘What else does a good and child-friendly user experience mean?’ We’ve put together a list of key elements for you:

Great user-experience for children is one that:

● Meets children’s needs and desires and adapts to children’s ever-changing behaviours over time.

● Takes ethical age-appropriate measures: 1) It does not contain inappropriate media and content and 2) it protects children’s privacy and safety online.

● Supports children’s cognitive, social and motor abilities. For example, it pays attention to children’s limited ability as well as their minimal willingness to read.

● Consists of various explorative patterns and clues to make the user experience playful and surprising.

● Supports a child’s growth by teaching them to learn from mistakes with the help of sufficient and timely feedback.

● Supports independent usage by the child.

We wrote a more detailed guide in the blog post ‘5 key rules for designing interactions for kids’.

Once again

People might assume the return of investment of good UX for kids is hard to measure. In some ways that is true. At the same time, you can just as well use common measures, such as 1) the number of people buying a product (subscription) or 2) purchasing the app from an app store. In that sense spending money on a good UX design for children does not differ from adults.

At the same time, a good UX design, based on solid user research, enhances user satisfaction and retention. These are significant parameters to expand your user base and benefit the conversion of your product. Now and in the long term.

Let children become advocates of your product to grow the return on investment.

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