Designing Web Registration Processes for Kids

by Debra Levin Gelman

25 Reader Comments

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  1. Regarding using more concrete language, this is something nearly every form on the web can benefit from.  Rather than simply saying “submit,” the button should be more descriptive as to what is actually being done.  Is this the final step in the process, or are there more steps to follow? And I’ve often wondered about which terminology to use when labeling form fields (me/my/you/your), and this line of thought about perspective is very helpful.  Thanks!
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  2. You touched on being patronizing and so on, but then expressed that taking a tour was a good idea. Just like adults get bored being walked through stuff they perceive themselves to already know, I’ve encountered kids getting bored 5 seconds into a tour of the site. If needed, it better be precisely as engaging as the actual site. Else, just avoid required steps, and let the kids get to the play or “work” as quickly as possible. (Games are a good place to look for best practices. Watch some kids set up their Miis—Wii Avatars. It’s an example of setup being at least as engaging as “actual” gameplay).
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  3. Thanks for the comments! Brochris - Glad to hear you found it helpful.  There’s a lot we can learn from designing for kids that’s applicable to designing for adult audiences as well. Shoobe01 - Good point.  I think the key is to really upsell the value proposition at the outset.  If you think a tour won’t engage kids, allow them to “learn by doing” before you ask them to sign up. Deb
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  4. At the risk of sounding pedantic and picky, I just want to point out that, in the context in which they are used in the final matrix, the phrases should be “sign up” and “sign in” without the hyphens. I know, I know, but as long as we’re choosing better language, let’s also punctuate better. That said, I loved this article. Loved reading an article about designing for children on ALA—a nice change of pace. Really sound advice, loved the actual comments made by kids. Thank you for writing this, and thanks, ALA, for publishing it.
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  5. Liked the ‘wording options’ chart; as has been mentioned above, ‘Submit’ is rarely a meaningful call to action from an end-user perpective. Nice article!
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  6. I’m working on a children’s online game for a project at university. One thing I’ve been struggling with is how to provide log in functionality without requesting any personal details such as an email address. I found this article very helpful. Thank you!
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  7. Thanks for the feedback! Lily - Not picky and pedantic in the least. We all should be more vigilant about punctuation and grammar. Thanks for catching that!  Glad you enjoyed the article. James (and everyone) - Can you think of other web terms that need “kidification?”  I welcome additions to the chart. Claireanthony - Registration and login can be tricky, for adults as well as kids.  What are some specific things you might try for your project? Deb
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  8. Thanks for the article Debra! One thing that I’ve learned about kids website, since I started working on one about 1 year ago, is that the gap btw ages is so much bigger than us grown ups. We want to be “kids” and kids want to be grown ups. The gap btw a 9 year-old and 10 year-old is huge. Most 10 year-old want to be teens where 9 year-old just want to be 10. When I first designed our website (a social network for kids), I tried to make it fun (playful colors, characters and so on). Than we got tons of comments saying “The site is too babyish”. About 4 months ago I redesign it to look more like a teenager site. The user comments were positive and they felt more mature. To conclude my point, it’s very hard to design for kids of every age and sex. Anyone trying to design something for kids, I would advise to narrow down the age and gender as much as possible. Rodrigo
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  9. Hi Rodrigo— Absolutely.  There’s a world of difference between a 5 year old and a 6 year old.  The cognitive gap between ages starts narrowing at around 9 or 10, but it does make designing for kids tricky.  That being said, it’s impossible to design for every type of adult, too. And perception is more important than reality.  So you’ve got to do lots of up-front research and understand who your primary persona(s) are at the beginning of the project. Are you targeting an 8-year-old girl who plays games and does art projects?  Or are you focusing on a 7-year-old boy who watches superhero cartoons? Doing this will help you tailor the experience appropriately and avoid that most dreaded adjective, “babyish.” Deb
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  10. Thanks for this! I’ve taught my 7-year-old not to ever register for anything online unless I a) know about it and b) help him do it, so when he registered on Lego.com he grabbed me immediately and I did it for him - no idea how much of the process he absorbed. That said, I think there’s much in this article that can be applied to web forms in general, particularly when your user base is diverse (as mine is; I work for a credit union) and may have varying degrees of web savvy.
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  11. Very nice post, I haven’t been fortunate enough to work on a kids site just yet, but definitely get enough exposure to others well crafted sites with two toddlers in the household.  Would like to see more of the same interactivity but without the flash.  Big colorful buttons help my 3 year old navigate easily, those sites that try to be clever only hide their navigation from their younger audience, this is my observation from watching my kids anyway.
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  12. “Creating a multi-step registration process is a good way to unfold this. It allows kids to become comfortable with the process” This is my big takeaway from your detailed article. Whenever I am registering for an account, I want the process to be as quick as possible. It never came to mind that this process can be different for kids. Thanks
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  13. I am in the middle of designing a language teaching site for kids starting at age 5 through to 11, after reading the article, I realized how stereotyped our thoughts become while designing websites for adults… This article really opened my thoght process and allowed me to conceptualize how to collect information as well as to present it.. The journey being as important as the destination is very true.
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  14. Funny how kids say out loud what we, as adult, will accept and endure: “Why do I have to sign-up? Just to play games?” Yet, as adult we endure sign-ups for cases where they are not warranted (such as purchasing tickets online). Reading your article brings up a lot of good practices on how to design proper web interactions.  Yet the first and most important principle remains the same: Know your user and its motivations.
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  15. Thanks for the great feedback! ThomasCraig - You’re spot on about navigation.  A lot of sites try to jazz it up with flash and animation.  The problem with that is, kids can only conceptualize one type of interaction per mechanism.  So when a kid sees a character pop up on rollover, it’s hard for them to understand that if they click on the character, they’ll go to another page. Jenna74 - Glad you found this helpful! Upendr - How exciting! Please let me know (@dgelman) when your site goes live; I’d love to see it. Jean-Marc - You nailed it.  The framework for designing kids’ sites has a lot of applicability for web design in general. A big difference, though, is that when adults encounter a poorly designed interaction, they tend to blame themselves for not being able to figure it out.  Kids just move on to the next site, experience, interaction etc. Deb
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  16. Dear Debra, You have touched on a significant design principle and end-user audience by neatly articulating the key differences in approaching the minors (age group). I am a usability consultant and in my study, explore various aspects and examples as part of my learning and application. The examples you’ve used are really helpful for “visualizing” the efficacy of the user interfaces designed for kids. If you permit, I would like to use these examples as a listing on my blog (blog.idyeah.com) and provide a link to you/your feature. Kindly let me know if you would allow the same. Thanks again for sharing these thoughts. Best Regards,
    Vishal Mehta, CEO, IDYeah Creations
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  17. What a fascinating article! Like others, I believe registration flows for other users could benefit from these practices. But I’m left with this nagging question: why do so many of the forms you’ve shown as examples have a “gender” field? Do the application interfaces change based on a user’s identifying as boy or girl?
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  18. Nice article,  i think of that to, for preparing somethings for children, we must look from their eyes,  we must remember our childhood :)
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  19. Hi Mejarc - The “gender” field is primarily for data purposes.  Companies with kid sites like to know the ages and genders of the site’s users, so they can adjust and market appropriately. That being said, COPPA laws prevent the collection and dissemination of “identifying” information (full name, phone number, address) so companies tend to use more generalized collection techniques. The only times I’ve seen a gender selection impact the interface is for avatar creation.  If you select “girl” you’re presented with a female-looking visual representation.  This is actually something I’d like to see discontinued, for the opportunity to create an identity online shouldn’t be constrained by one’s physical gender. Deb
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  20. Without wanting to shift away from the focus topic/demographic, I’ve often wondered lately whether the explosion in the number of sites - and the tendency of site developers to engage in sensory overload to make their sites stand out from the crowd - won’t wind up turning people off “designer sites” or the web altogether at some point. It seems really that in the not-to-distant future, “adult” site design will have little choice but to adopt similar short, sweet and simple design principals, or risk failing to retain an audience.
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  21. A generally good article, but I don’t think there was any piece of wisdom or advice given that wouldn’t also apply to adults. All it really comes down to is ‘know your audience’.
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  22. More and more children in a smaller time to start access to the Internet
    To tell the truth all of us adults do not come to accept things a bit to let them go too early to know me a headache
    So concerned is necessary in this regard
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  23. It is interesting that you put in this article that we should not patronise children by using “my,” but instead avoid confusion by using “your.” However, ever more sites aimed at the general (adult) think they can get away with being patronising referring to “my username” and “my password.” Are we adults supposed to be unable to tell who is talking? We are not talking to ourselves about the abstraction of the site we are using; we are being asked for our credentials by the site’s owners.
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  24. Today kids are attracted towards flash and vector graphics that are visually attractive and informative. Images and 2-D animation reach them faster than providing formatted texts.
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  25. To stimulate the registration of children on the site, possible after adding to the site some additional functions interesting for the children, who are accessible only with the presence of registration on the website.
    For example to create a mailbox, a children’s forum, to offer to create the first personal blog, organize competitions and quizzes.
    Important that the children’s web design contained the maximum quantity of the pictures, elements of flash web design, all instructions, explanation should consist of colorful images.
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