Tips for Creating Great Digital Content for Kids
Make your kids’ website fun and interactive
When your site is interactive, kids don’t even realize that they’re learning. Interactive pages lead kids to think of the site as a game, rather than a traditional or educational site that they might find less interesting. Keep the fun level up, and your page visits will go up!
Use similar settings, themes, and colors across the site
By keeping the settings and theme similar across the site, you help create a site that kids find easy to use because each page looks familiar. Bright and vibrant colors will draw kids into the website.
Make navigation paths clear and use simple labels
Children’s language and cognitive skills are less developed than in adults. So websites built for kids should have obvious and easy-to-follow navigation paths that don’t require many clicks to get to where they’re trying to go. After one wrong turn, kids will give up fast and leave.
Write labels in plain, easy-to-understand language.
Use larger fonts, less formal fonts, and less text
Just as kids are drawn to images, they’re also more likely to be engaged on a website when the pages use large and fun, kid-friendly fonts. These types of fonts can engage kids as much as images do because kids find these types of fonts more interesting than standard fonts.
Use graphics and thumbnail images, as appropriate, to make pages easy to scan
Just like adults, kids lose interest in text (even more so than adults do). To avoid losing their interest, it’s important to include pictures and graphics that add to the meat of your content, including easy-to-understand infographics or comics.
Know your audience—younger kids or older kids?
Younger kids (Grades K-3):
- Are more visual learners compared to adults or older kids; they tend to look at images rather than text
- Look for games and items that can be printed out
- Focus on fun and trying things out; they like to just keep clicking until they “get it”
Older kids (Grades 4-8):
- Are visual learners too, but will scan text
- Look for games, puzzles, polls
- Seek challenges (for example, getting to the next level)
- Focus on being social (polls, comments)
- Prefer a separate area for learning or a “homework zone”
- Ben’s Guide (younger kids)
- NASA Grades 5-8 (older kids)
Maybe an app instead?
A lot of kids and teens these days know how to navigate mobile devices better than their parents. Especially with teens, apps are popular alternatives to a traditional website. If you have interactive tools, a game, or an event to promote, an app may be your best route at reaching a younger population.
- Smokey Bear (Forest Service)
- Comet Quest (NASA)
Are federal agency websites required to post kids’ pages?
In 1997 President Bill Clinton issued a memo on Expanding Access to Internet-Based Educational Resources for Children, Teachers, and Parents. The memo directed federal agencies to develop and share online educational resources for students, teachers, and parents. Creating an agency kids’ page would be one way to fulfill this requirement, and could be considered a best practice, but there are other ways to present resources for young audiences—like a portal for teachers and parents.
In response to the memo, the Department of Education chaired an interagency working group for education. As a result of the working group’s activities and recommendations:
- Federal agencies developed more digital materials for teachers and students.
- The Department of Education developed Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) as a portal for educational resources hosted or sponsored by federal agencies.
- The working group created a toolkit with tips and lessons learned to aid other government agencies and organizations in the development of their online content for children and teens.
- Children’s Websites: Usability Issues in Designing for Kids
- Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE)This article was written by Arlene Hernandez and Emily Canis, Kids.gov, and Jill James, Ed.gov, based on usability testing conducted by Cari Wolfson and Kristina Schall for Kids.gov (March 2011).