Children can be sophisticated users of technology.
Just go to any busy restaurant and survey all of the youngsters being kept quiet and in their seats by way of a smartphone or tablet. You're bound to see a few three-year-olds making more adriot use of gestural interfaces than their parents.
With newer methods of interaction like touch and gesture, digital systems are accessible to an even younger audience of users. Every age bracket has different needs where content, navigation, interactions, and other aspects of product experiences are concerned.
Design for Experience judge Debra Levin Gelman has been working in kids media since 1993 and understands the unique elements that go into creating immersive experiences for little ones. Her IxDA presentation "Designing Immersive Online Environments for Kids" from 2011 goes over the three most important things to consider when designing experiences for children: identity, self-expression, and community.
"[Kids] spend more time customizing their avatars and their online identities than on any of the insipid games you might find in a virtual world," she points out. She also gives exampes of sites that give kids control over the environments they are creating and online experiences that establish rules that make sense to kids and keep them safe.
"Kids are fickle and anxious to see and try news things," she reminds us, "and they will click on anything that's in front of them on a screen."
It's also worth remembering that what Whitney Houston believed is true: "the children are our future." They are a challenging audience to design for, but the experiences they have with technology now will shape their expectations for the apps and interactions they'll be using as adults. The DfE Experience for Children award recognizes digital products for children that deliver excellent value, engagement, and ease of use for their users.
If you've seen a kid go bonkers for a great digital experience, nominate that experience now! If you've been a part of a design project created a valuable experience for children, apply for this award.
Image of boy using a laptop courtesy Shutterstock