Build an Age Appropriate Kid-Friendly Website

Go directly to the Kid-Friendly Website infographic!How old were you when you first went online?

Adults today may remember growing up with the development of the internet and learning to use it as a teenager or adult, but today’s children are growing up using the internet from a much earlier age than you might expect.

A suvery by parenting site Netmums.com found that the average age children start using the internet is just 3 years old — and that they spend twice as long online as their parents think they do. Another report using data from seven recent studies found that 80% of children 5 years old and younger use the Internet on at least a weekly basis.

And according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day online using a smartphone, computer, television, or other device.

With all the time kids spend on the web, you’d think it would be better designed for their use, but most websites are built by and for adults, without any thought to the unique needs and habits of children. And according to the usability experts at Nielsen Norman Group, “Kids and adults are different, and kids need a design style that follows different usability guidelines.”

If your website isn’t kid-friendly, you’re going to lose out when they get bored or frustrated and abandon your website.

When planning and designing a website for children, it’s important to keep them in mind from the beginning of the process. It can be very difficult to modify an already established website to make it kid-friendly.

But if you do keep children in mind when planning your website, it’ll help you greatly in the long run. You’ll be able to more easily attract your target audience, and your website will be more popular with kids from the start.

Wondering exactly how to create a website that’s kid-friendly? Here’s a primer to get you started, from planning colors to being in legal compliance, plus plenty of examples for your inspiration.

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How to Build an Age Appropriate Kid-Friendly Website

By age five, more than half of all children with access to the Internet will use it regularly. If your product or service is aimed at children it’s important that you create a website that children want to interact with. Here are some guidelines to help you create an awesome kid-friendly site.

Plan Carefully

  • Plan the site to be kid-friendly from the start
    • Trying to adapt an existing website is difficult and often fails
  • Design for the target age range
    • Experts suggest building the interactivity into the site from the beginning
    • Bold colors and graphics will attract the children to your site, but don’t overwhelm them with too many elements
  • Research other kid-friendly sites for ideas and strategies
    • Take note of what works and what doesn’t
    • Think of how your goals align with the strategies of existing sites
  • To keep children engaged and interested, avoid the following:
    • Too many options
    • Unclear navigation
    • Unpolished activities

Target Age Range

  • Children’s needs vary by age
    • What a toddler needs would most often bore a 10-year old
    • Those under 7 tend to be more interested in color and motion
    • Children 8 and above prefer more complex actions:
      • Building
      • Problem solving
      • Object manipulation
  • Choose a target age range and develop the site around that age’s developmental needs and abilities
    • Difficulty level
    • Number of options for activities
  • Information about specific age ranges
    • 3-5
      • Motor skills are not completely developed in this age range, making it more difficult for them to use a mouse or touchscreen
      • Use large images and click targets
      • Provide quick feedback to clicks with audio and visual cues
    • 6-8
      • Children of this age will have basic reading skills
        • Keep it simple and avoid jargon
      • In general, this age group will be an amalgam of the younger and older groups
        • Still lots of graphics
          • Smaller than for the toddlers
        • Some written content
    • 9-12
      • This age group is more experienced with technology
        • Smaller click targets
        • More scrollable pages
      • Provide more text content
      • Be careful of ads
        • They may have trouble telling the difference between an ad and site content

Sample Sites (By Age Group)

3-5

  • PBS Kids
    • PBS Kids
    • Incorporates PBS children’s shows into online activities and games
      • Includes Arthur, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Curious George
      • Printable materials available
        • Storybook sheets
        • Connect-the-dots sheets
        • Coloring pages
    • Website organized by show, difficulty level, and type of activity
    • Kid-friendly elements
      • Bright colors
      • Simple, moving graphics
      • Interactive wheel to choose a favorite show
  • Sesame Street
    • Sesame Street
    • Features puzzles, songs, games, and more — for children 2 and under to 5+
    • Separated into several categories:
      • Games
      • Videos
        • Games and videos can be filtered by favorite Sesame Street character
      • Art Maker
      • Muppets
      • Playlists
    • Has bright colors and simple graphics
    • Videos and games focus on topics such as:
      • Loving oneself
      • Evaluating someone’s mood based on their facial expression

6-8

  • Fun Brain
    • Fun Brain
    • Divided into four categories:
      • Math
      • Reading
      • Fun
      • Playground
    • Features many games, both educational and just-for-fun
    • Reading activities include Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Mad Libs
    • Includes a section for parents and teachers
    • Has simple graphics and bright colors
    • Is COPPA-certified
  • Ziggity Zoom
    • Ziggity Zoom
    • Educational activities, crafts, food ideas, games, and downloadable apps
    • Kid-friendly elements
      • Bright colors
      • Simple graphics
    • Organized by category
    • Includes a section for parents
  • Discovery Kids
    • Discovery Kids
    • Has information about:
      • Sharks
      • Dinosaurs
      • Space
      • Animals
      • Science
      • Earth
    • Features:
      • Simple icons and colors
      • High-quality pictures and videos
      • Games and puzzles
      • Apps
      • Activities
      • A parent’s section

9-12

  • Yellowstone National Park Just for Kids
    • Yellowstone Kids
    • Educational website with a variety of activities
    • Each activity is described with an appropriate age range
      • Younger kids
      • Older kids
      • Kids of all ages
    • Tween appropriate activities include:
      • Animated web ranger’s station with hiking trails and games
      • Predicting Old Faithful’s eruptions with a formula
      • Website scavenger hunt
      • Wildlife Olympics
    • Includes links to view park webcams and photos as well as information for on-site park activities for kids

Critical Privacy and Safety Issues

  • The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) applies to all sites that target children under 13
    • It requires that you:
      • Clearly state the site’s online privacy policy
        • Include information regarding the collection of personal information
      • Get the parent’s consent before collecting personal info from children
        • In addition, give parents the option of whether or not to have the child’s information shared with third parties
      • Provide parents access to the children’s information, including the ability to review or remove it from the site
      • Allow parents to choose not to allow the site to collect any additional personal info from the child
  • Avoid asking children to identify themselves in any way
  • Check all external links for safety
    • Exclude links that might potentially introduce unsafe material, such as violent or sexual content
  • Develop a parents’ section with information about it
    • What the site does
    • How to interact with it

Websites for children are distinct from those built for adults. But we know what works and what is appropriate. With a good plan and a little care, you can build a site that is educational and entertaining — as well as being a good marketing tool.

Sources: eprints.lse.ac.uk, whoishostingthis.com, quickbooks.intuit.com, smashingmagazine.com, inspirationfeed.com, digitaltrends.com, pbskids.org, ziggityzoom.com, funbrain.com, discoverykids.com, viddiverse.com, linkedin.com, adweek.com, hotelexecutive.com, usertesting.com, ftc.gov, nps.gov

Sources

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