Friday, March 02, 2007

Usability for Children - Lessons Learned

Recently at Enquiro, we performed a Usability Study on a children's website for kids between the ages of 8 and 11. The study itself was a success, and there was enough valuable information to keep the site owners busy for some time to come, though it did open our eyes to working with children.

Below I've listed a few of the things that you should consider if you plan on performing a Usability Study with a younger demographic.

  1. Assure them that this is not a test, especially if they just came from school. Kids are so used to being tested at school, but not really used to people asking for their opinion on, well, anything, so this is foreign to them.

  2. Ensure that the study isn't too long. If what you're studying is not a cartoon, then make sure you're not forcing them to sit still for too long. A half hour was pushing it for some of the children we had participating in the study.

  3. Be accommodating with your time. Children are on much more of a schedule than you are, especially younger ones, so be flexible to when the children are available, they are, after all, the most important part of your study.

  4. Realize that recruiting a target sample of children is not an exact science. Your target may be fairly specific (for instance, 8-11 year olds), but realize that there are very young 8 year olds as well as very old 11 year olds out there.

  5. Don't compensate them like adults. Instead of handing over a $50 bill, which to you might seem adequate, consider the example of the Dentist you had as a child. For me the best part, and only reason I agreed to go to the Dentist, was that at the end of it all, i got to open up the drawer with all the toys in it. I'm not suggesting a toy drawer, but consider how to adequately compensate a 10 year old.
Anyways, these are simply a few things to keep in mind when considering a study with a younger demographic. All things considered though, I would really recommend doing a study like this because there's nothing like seeing children's sites through the eyes of a child.

This is the first generation to really have had computers in their life since the time that they were born. While many of us learned about and grew into the internet, almost every decision that these 8-11 year olds have had to make is in some way influenced by the internet. Even a number of social activities are centered around communities on the internet, there are neopets and penguins to take care of after all.


Joe said...

Hehe, penguins to take care of... I like that!

Lee J

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