While most adults will be comfortable with using many different forms of technology, and thus able to navigate through well designed websites easily, children and the elderly have vastly different needs when it comes to web design. When designing for children, a different set of different design principles must be considered, and when creating a web design targeted towards an older audience a greater level of usability must be applied.
Creating a web design for children, such as an educational website or one marketing children’s toys, involves disregarding many traditional web design principles, to create a website that is engaging for a younger mind. Conventional website design advocates minimum use of colour but when designing a website for children, it is important to use bright primary colours to visually stimulate the child’s mind. Similarly, design of web page for children should include a three dimensional layout, animated shapes and characters that create depth and interest to the page. This allows your young audience to engage more deeply with the website design as they can visually place themselves in the world you present to them.
Children are also attracted to animations and interactive games. Although a heavy use of Flash is discouraged in adult web design, it is the most commonly used and most effective way of building a web design for children. A child’s attention must be caught even quicker than an adult’s so the use of animation and sound on the home page or introductory page to a children’s website can be very effective.
Interactive videos and games are key ingredients to a successful child-oriented website page design. All children love playing games, and games can be the most effective way of teaching, entertaining and stimulating children. Children’s web design also offers methods for extending the experience of using the website, as print-off colouring sheets and craft templates can be very enticing for children.
Other unconventional elements can be used to advantage in children’s web design. These include talking navigation for children too young to read on their own, idiosyncratic cursors that aid learning about website use and web page design that breaks out of the standard grid format of most websites.
One factor that remains the same for web designs targeted towards any age is clarity of navigation. The navigation must follow a simple structure for all websites, and in children’s web design it can be emphasised with bright colours and visual elements. Navigation to be used by the elderly must also be marked out clearly, as older website users can easily get lost in a website.
The greatest problem to overcome when creating a web design for the elderly is usability. All tasks incorporated in the website design must be easy to complete, as elderly users are unlikely to try again after failing once. Operation of the website should be designed to be used intuitively, as the older audience may have trouble remembering how to use the website, even after using it previously.
One way to help older viewers use your website is to create a website design that separates tasks into small, easily managed steps. This prevents an overload of new information and gives your viewer confidence.
Visibility is another important consideration in web design for the elderly. Remember that many of your viewers will have deteriorated eyesight so it is imperative to use font sizes that are large enough, and to create good contrast for optimised readability. As a guide, the font included in your web design should be at least 12 pt., but the inclusion of a manual font sizer can be very useful as it allows users to adjust the font to their preferred size without zooming in on the entire web page.
The layout of the web page for an older audience should be simple, with a sizeable amount of white space to focus the viewer’s information on important information. A clean look and simplicity are paramount in ensuring your older user can use your website effectively.