by David Dick
What do you think is the most important aspect when it comes to designing and testing software for children? Children of course! The process begins with an understanding of the intended age group. According to Hanna, Risden, and Alexander in Guidelines for Usability Testing with Children (see www.microsoft.com/usability/UEPostings/p9-hanna.pdf), there are three target age ranges:
- Preschool-aged children (2 to 5 years old)
- Elementary-school-aged children (6 to 10 years old)
- Middle-school-aged children (11 to 14 years old)
These age divisions are arbitrary and many behaviors will overlap. Most children younger than 2½ years of age are not proficient enough with standard input devices (e.g. mouse, trackball, or keyboard) to interact with technology and provide useful data. Children older than 14 years of age will likely behave as adults in a testing situation and should be treating accordingly.
What do children enjoy about software? I asked my son and my friend Shirley for advice. Children want:
- Rich graphics, animation, interaction, friendly narration, and entertainment.
- Games don’t need violence to be fun but finding and destroying things to win points seems to be entertaining.
- Learning should be educational and fun. Software should provide a simple interface to browse information, view videos, and play recordings.
- Documentation should be illustrated and written for the intended age range.
If you are looking for children’s software-ask a kid, because children know what they want. Happy Shopping!