Jakob Nielsen has a new report on website usability for kids. Since I myself run a site geared towards children, I read it with some interest. Unfortunately it confirmed my worst fears. Kids want bells and whistles. Kids don’t like to read. Kids don’t get hierarchical navigation. All of which means my site is one big usability nightmare for them. Honestly, though, I sorta knew that would be the case when I designed it. I had to think about the adults that would visit the site too, though. I also wanted to make it clear that my site was about information, not pure entertainment. I mean, compare my site to the official one. That’s the debate right there. The official one is very flashy and whizzy and noisy, yet it’s also incredibly difficult to track down specific information about Dahl or his books. My site, on the other hand, is pretty much transparent about where everything is located. Which is better? Personally, I think challenging kids is more important than pandering to them. I’m not talking about making things deliberately difficult, but I’m not talking about making them totally simple either. Kids are gonna need to learn how to research someday. Why should I hand them everything on a silver platter? I want them to think and read and figure things out. I refuse to dumb down my site because little Johnny’s too impatient to click on the “Timeline” to find out Dahl’s birthday. This is where I think the flaw is in Nielsen’s study. Was he studying kids using websites for fun, or kids using websites for a purpose? Which type of site do you prefer?

I think I might make a survey at my site to find out what the visitors think. Not that that will make me change anything, but I might as well know if I’m pissing them off.

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  1. I had a proper nose around your Dahl site last night (as opposed to just reading a bit on the first page). I just wanted to tell you how great I think it is! I specifically enjoyed reading some of the FAQ’s and the homework page. Funny and interesting!

  2. Aw, thanks! You know, this guy e-mailed me recently complaining that my tone in the FAQ was too bitchy. I wrote him back this rant about how no one ever reads it, and if you got three e-mails a day for five years asking stupid questions that could be answered in two seconds at the site, you’d take on a slightly bitchy tone too. He apologized and agreed with me. 🙂

  3. I really like your Dahl site, Kris. I mean, little Flash animations are cool and everything, but I’d much rather have a page that’s easy to navigate and read. Forget all the bells and whistles. I hate Flash intros. They piss me off. Give me substance!!

  4. Nice. I like encouragement. 🙂

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