Technology

Kid-Friendly UX: Ensuring Website Accessibility – A Guide for Web Designers

Designing a user interface that provides the most intuitive experience for children differs from what’s good UX for adults.

Stating the obvious, there are significant differences in how children interact with digital environments versus how adults do it. These differences are rooted in physical, cognitive, and emotional differences between the two user groups but also depend greatly on the need that drives the behavior.

Children mostly use mobile devices for educational and entertainment reasons. Adults do it for a whole lot more. So when you create a website that provides accessible design to children, the UX and UI considerations are going to be quite different than a typical adult-centric design.

For the most accessibility-compliant website, try an accessible web builder program that comes pre-equipped with all those considerations. If you are DIY-ing the design, here is a rundown of what to pay attention to.

Why designing for kids is different?

Understanding why you must make different UI design decisions for children is important.

  • Physical differences: Little fingers need bigger buttons and other UI features that offer easy interactivity. Limit the need to tilt or rotate the device as it can cause accidental exits from the interface or cause expensive accidents.
  • Developing addictions is easier so design your UI ethically: Your design needs to be engaging but not to a point where it’s becoming addictive. Practice ethical design when building a kid-friendly UX.
  • Significant cognitive differences from adults: Children have shorter attention spans so a clean design with the least amount of distractions will offer a more enjoyable UX.
  • Extra safety precautions for a safe online experience: Children don’t often know the consequences of their actions. Strive to create a safe online experience with constant vigilance over the content you publish, ads you accept, and other similar actions.
  • Transparency about ads and promotions: Kids cannot always differentiate between ads and original content. Stay away from any practice that tricks younger audiences into engaging with content they’re not meant to.

UX Preferences Change Over Narrow Age Groups

A Nielsen Norman Group study into the web usability issues for young audiences revealed that physical, cognitive, and emotional capabilities among children vary significantly across narrow age groups.

For you, a 6-year-old might be the same age as a 5-year-old, but for the 6-year-old child, that difference is huge — as shown in the study.

So, designing a kid-friendly UX, divide your audiences into these three main segments:

  • Toddlers: Ranging from ages 1-3 years. With the shortest attention spans and most limited motor skills, this age group prefers sounds, symbols, and visuals.
  • Preschoolers: They have increased attention spans and know how digital interfaces work. Online games are heavily directed at this age group. Give them colorful graphics and animated visuals with a bit more advanced and polished interface.
  • School-age children: This age group can think in abstract terms and have sufficient experience with most digital environments. UI and UX designed for them will be a lot closer to what’s typical for adults than children.

Kid-Friendly Accessible UX Best Practices

Here are some sure-fire ways to create an accessible UX for kid-centric websites and apps.

● Go with tap-hold instead of tap-release

Tapping and pointing are one of the first instincts that children develop. If they want something, they’ll point to it and tap. In digital design, a UI that springs into action with a simple tap helps create a natural experience for children.

Keep in mind that their cognitive skills aren’t too sharp yet. So if you are going with a tap-and-release function, it may cause frustration for young children, forcing them to jab at the screen rapidly or press it with more force.

● Add more images but less text

A digital design directed at toddlers or preschoolers should not be text-heavy. Keep the text instructions or navigation minimal, and design your interface with an image-centric strategy.

Arrows, familiar cartoons, and large buttons all invite engagement and help little fingers navigate the interface with more ease and accessibility.

When text instructions are necessary, use simple language with clear phrasing so accidental clicks can be prevented.  

● Add progress bars or achievement scores

Whether you are creating a learning app or something purely for entertainment, young users appreciate the feedback they receive when they perform an action. It lets them know that they are on the right course and encourages further engagement.

Adding progress bars or achievement scores helps create a more dependable digital environment that children feel comfortable in. Since young kids are prone to lose focus and motivation, reward points or other proofs of achievement retain their focus and encourage them to return to the app soon.

● Features that look clickable must be clickable

Kids, even the really young ones, are growing up in environments where they are extremely familiar with using digital devices. So they already have an idea how an interface is supposed to behave. When they spot something that looks like a button, they know they can tap on it and something will happen.

Creating UIs where elements that look clickable are in fact not clickable is a recipe for poor web accessibility, and may even cause damage to the device when children start pounding on the screen to make the button move.

Be mindful of these ‘expectations’ before you finalize a design concept.

● Plan a multi-touch interface

Children thrive in collaborative play. Even when they are using a tablet or a phone, there are chances it can turn into a group play, or other siblings can join in.

When you plan a multi-touch interface, you plan in advance. You take into account the fact that even a single child playing can often hold the device in a way where multiple fingers touch the screen, and the ensuing responses can invite further exploration of the app/website.

● Keep parental-services content away from the main navigation

Accidental exits are a common issue that developers have to contend with when creating kid-centric environments. How do you bring a child back to what they were doing when they accidentally exit themselves from the experience by clicking on a different tab?

A great way to do that is to combine and collect all the parental-related stuff away from the main navigation. A website footer can be the ideal choice. That way, the main navigation will only contain things that young users can find useful — even if they land on them accidentally.

Conclusion

User experiences aimed at kids should be started with kids. Digital expectations across user groups vary by age. For children, these variations exist in narrow age segmentation and require you to conduct your research carefully. If you are creating a digital design that’s for toddlers, avoid taking feedback from a 5-year-old on what their ideal interface looks like.

Partner with a design agency or an AI-powered web builder service where web accessibility across user groups helps you create delightful experiences for niche groups of target market.

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