Children (Ages 3-12) on the Web

3rd Edition

Report PDF cover image

Children are selective about the technology they use. They choose to use specific websites when the experience seems worthwhile and when it beats other options. Children have specific interests and online behavior and require design styles that match their needs.

This 259-page report offers 130 design guidelines based on our usability research. Discussions and 244 screenshot illustrations supplement our findings.

Topics covered

  • Cognitive development level and experience makes usability for kids critical
  • Kids and adults are different. Kids need a different design style
  • Myths about children on the web and their lack of technical understanding
  • How and why children use the internet
  • Designing for parent involvement
  • Helping kids find your websites
  • Interaction design: making the most of pointing devices and keyboards
  • Forms, passwords, and memberships
  • Designing navigation for children
  • Search for early readers
  • Compelling homepages
  • Legibility and text design for beginning readers
  • Readability and comprehension
  • Written instructions that young users understand
  • Images to communicate and inspire
  • Decreasing the perception of wait time
  • Animation and video that engage young audiences
  • Audio: Background, rollover, sound effects
  • Advertisements
  • Displaying system errors and help (alerts, dialogs, plug-ins)
  • Targeted content
  • Characters
  • Gender and international considerations

Detailed methodology section that shows how you can conduct your own usability studies with children,

  • Where to test
  • When to involve parents
  • Whether or not to test in pairs

What’s new in the 2nd and 3rd Edition?

The second edition contains additional recommendations, increasing from 70 to 130 guidelines. We also studied a broader age range, kids 6-11 years old to 3-12 years old.

The third edition contains new and updated screenshot examples.

Research method

The information in this report is based on two rounds of studies, conducted nine years apart, with children between 3-12 years old. We used usability testing as the method of research:

  • One-on-one usability testing
  • Co-discovery usability testing, for which kids evaluate websites in pairs

Overall, children tested 53 websites targeted at their age group, as well as the kids area on mainstream websites. The studies took place in the United States and Israel in  participants' homes, at schools, and in usability labs.


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