Children are people. Little energetic people. They have their own thoughts, actions feelings. these traits are found in all people. So why are most sites designed for them treating them as hyperactive thugs unable to focus? Why do most sites for children forget the most common UX practices. In the past we have designed our fair share of sites for everything from lap-surfers to tweens & teens. When designing these sites and usually the accompanying game we started at a IA level. Mapping out the needs and focus of the site. Perhaps the issues are that these sites are developed internally by inexperienced staff. Or perhaps its a focus on monetization of their sites.
I have noticed the later on one of the major players in this area, Disney‘s Preschool site. This site is missing the mark by a long shot. It has a large image of Mickey… great! When mickey is presenting an ad unit in it’s video player this looses Walt’s peeps some points. Next when I’m trying to show my 3 year old(Lap Surfer) one of his favorite shows I cannot find it. I have the benefit of a larger screen than most and at a high resolution. On my MacBook Pro the menu for shows is far below the fold. The site is also mired by text legibility issues, does white on yellow ever work? Very poor video quality. And an overall lack of prominence of the key reasons kids and their parents will go to this site.
Just so I’m not a negative Ned, there is a site that is doing their best and in many ways is the tops in the kids online arena, PBS Kids. It’s really great to use. They clearly know that kids want to identify with their shows. It’s got a great fun Flash interface and only one TINY ad at the bottom of the site. Noggin is also worth mentioning because they are right in between PBS & Disney’s sites. By putting their shows up front and their hosts (Moose A. Moose & Z) visible they are inviting users into their world of online preschool. Shows are easy to identify and access. Animations are fun. They even tell you what show is currently airing. My only gripe is its a but small and the ads (as always) take away from the experience.
The question really is why are sites still built like this? Have they never heard of user testing? I’m sure Disney’s mind would be blown if they had some Tobii test run on their site. So next time you have to design for a child (and their parents) remember that you need to design for a child that knows what they want.