Research shows that there are millions of users aged three to twelve who are already web proficient. However, designing websites for children is often left out in web design literature.
Designing a website for children is as interesting and challenging as designing a website for adults. The design elements and layouts needed in websites for children calls for a certain amount of creativity and imaginative play: the challenge is how to how to keep the users interested and stimulated. To be able to succeed at creating a website for children, there are web design practices that you have to learn.
Features of Websites for Children
The best way to hold children’s attention is to create an environment that stimulates all their five senses. A great example of Disney Play House website at http://tv.disney.go.com/playhouse/mickeymouseclubhouse/index.html.
- Bright colors. Go to a toy section and you’ll notice that it’s a world of bright colors. That’s the deal with children. Give them visual stimulation, and you’ll haul them for the long run. The same applies to Baby and Child Logos.
- More pictures, less text. Unlike adults, kids don’t visit a website to read information. If you present them with long blocks of information, they will hardly stay on your website. However, they are readily attracted to pictures, so useless text and more pictures to deliver a message.
- Animated characters. Children are fascinated by animated characters or mascots. Give them animated, speaking characters, and you’ll have their full attention. They are attracted to characters that are fuzzy, woozy, huggable, or cute, too, so think of this when creating one. For some design ideas, think Elmo or Barney.
- Simple navigations. Kids will be viewing your site, not reading them. Make the navigation simple and easy so they don’t get confused. Do away with text-based links – stick to large buttons and graphics as much as possible. For design ideas, look up how Peppa Pig and Winnie the Pooh websites incorporated large icons and navigation bar into their website theme. Also, make sure all important items can be seen without scrolling down the screen – most kids don’t scroll to see what’s down there below, they just click on whatever appears before them.
- Learning games. Kids don’t want to read – they want to play. Entertainment them with games that stimulate their minds. When kids are entertained, they are more likely to visit a site again and again. Activities that allow customizing of characters seem to click with kids, regardless of their age group. Provide activities that allow them to create their own characters, garden, house, etc., and they’d love staying on your site.
- For kids ages 3-5, simple games like picture puzzles or matching shapes are suitable. Consider adding printable items like coloring or layouts for making puppets, paper dolls, or other crafts.
- Kids age 6-8 need more mentally challenging games so crafts and coloring won’t do. Adventure games, guessing games, and the like are likely to keep them interested.
- Kids age 9 – 12 prefer games that allow them to compete with others.
- Music and sounds. Kids love music. This is why most TV shows and films for kids have singing and songs. Add song background to games to make playtime more enjoyable. Kids also enjoy sound effects; you can put sound effects on navigation buttons and games.
- Pre-loaders. Kids have little patience. How do you keep their attention when the website is loading a page? The trick is to add a pre-loader that will grab their attention and make them stay on the page as it loads.
More Techniques to Consider
Now that you know the principles for creating an environment that is conducive to children, let’s walk through some more basics for creating an effective children’s website.
- Research the age range of the website’s target audience. This will guide you in determining the most appropriate topics, games, songs, and other content to include on the website.
- Create a happy environment by incorporating elements that elicit happy, positive feelings. Mickey Mouse’s happy face and buoyant personality, for instance, brings out the happy ambiance of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse website.
- Kids respond to elements they are familiar with, and most of the things they know are found in nature. Use elements such as trees, mountains, clouds. Club Penguin, for instance, has penguins, polar bears, and other elements found in the Arctic.
- Make it feel real by adding depth to the design. The realistic atmosphere can be achieved using three-dimensional elements, Flash-animated landscapes, sound effects, floating objects, and more.
Designing a website for kids is fun. Learning what interests them will help you create a website that effectively engages these young Internet users.