Average daily usage for traditional screen media among children is steadily plummeting, with more kids now using mobile devices than computers.
Children’s mobile usage has tripled in the last three years, with the average child spending 15 minutes per day on a mobile device, according to a study by Common Sense Media. It should come as no surprise, as seventy-five percent of kids now have access to mobile devices at home. Smartphones are the most frequently used for games and video, with tablets close behind. Nearly half of all children eight-and-under have watched videos on mobile devices at some point.
Tapping and touching is the most intuitive movement for young children when it comes to navigating a website or app. That paired with a surge in usage means touchscreen technology is now more important for young audiences as a whole than using a mouse. It makes sense to implement a mobile-first approach to designing an engaging kid-friendly website.
Responsive design is an emerging best practice for children’s websites.
Your website should have a clean, clutter-free design. It’s a good idea to incorporate a margin buffer/“no-click” zone because younger children tend to hold tablets in landscape view with their palms resting on the corners of the screen. These issues are two of the biggest barriers that inhibit use for children on mobile websites and apps.
What are some other functionalities that cater to today’s children?
Scrolling is a developmentally advanced concept for children and careful thought should be given to placing key content above the fold to make it more intuitive for younger audiences. Research shows that older children are very comfortable scrolling in both horizontal and vertical directions, however. Be sure to include something like large arrows to indicate left or right scrolling.
An emerging trend is a phaseout of rollover functions for navigation since they do not work on tablet and mobile devices. Of course, that doesn’t mean that this type of functionality should be avoided at all costs, just that it has a diminishing role in the realm of kid-friendly design and is not part of a mobile-first approach.
Utilize icon-based navigation, both color- and shape-coded, using standard convention. Imagine the most recognizable icons for play, pause, stop, mute, etc. Those are the ones that will be most intuitive to younger audiences who may not be able to read.
Less is more.
Research shows that adults can comfortably choose from a set of up to seven options, but choice can be a much more agonizing process for children. Minimize choices that they have to make, and be sure no choice is a bad choice leading to a dead-end where an adult must help the child get back on track.
Minimize clutter to increase conversions. If the purpose of a given screen is for a child to watch a video, remove all unnecessary distractions. This includes any buttons other than play, stop, and close for the video player. Netflix Kids is a great example of optimal video player design for this purpose.
Regardless of design approach, it’s important to produce content that caters to both parents and children alike. It should be educational, engaging, and fun for kids of various developmental stages. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act to make sure that your site is COPPA compliant. Parents should know at almost first glance that a website is safe.
Follow these best practices and you’ll be well on your way to a kid-friendly digital experience that will keep everyone engaged and coming back time and again.