How to Do Usability Testing with Kids

Apr 26, 2013

What do kids know about Web design? As we found out, quite a lot.

Adults and children participate in the usability test.

Recently our DigitalGov User Experience Program teamed up with the team to get some big time feedback from some pint-sized testers in a hallway test. We tested with almost 20 kids ages 6 to 14 at our GSA office, made possible by “Take Your Child to Work Day.” We also tweeted some results under the hashtag #kidsgovtest

We turned the lunchroom into our testing area, and set up laptops, balloons, markers and a good supply of sugar. Our goal: To get user feedback on’s design, navigation, and content.

Because children’s brains change so much as they age, we created two sets of tasks: one for ages 4-6 and one for 7-14. We had the parents sign permission forms so we could take photos, and then some stayed to watch their kids while others let them free. (Only one parent tried answering questions for their child—the rest let them do the talking).

Tests ranged from two minutes to about 10 at the most, and thankfully the kids were very candid:

  • They instantly gravitated to the video and games sections
  • Like adults, they all wanted more pictures
  • They expected the video page to look like YouTube, with video thumbnails
  • One girl suggested adding logos for Sesame Street next to the text link to make it more visible
  • One boy read the complex instructions for a video game carefully, but then forgot them when the game started. He hoped that the instructions would float on-screen as the game began
  • One young girl thought (hoped) the laptop was a touchscreen. Another thought mousing over a link would read it aloud
  • They almost all used Google as a starting point for homework

We lucked out—these kids were very well-behaved and patient. A few even drew some comments about the website on a whiteboard. Flexibility paid off—sometimes you need to move around on your script a bit, or know when to go off script when you see that “I’m getting bored” look come on.

Are there any other government kids pages out there that have tried usability testing? We’d love to hear how it went.