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Building a Playground: General Guidelines for Creating Educational Web Sites for Children

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Abstract:

Purpose: Since 2004, the number of children online has increased 18%, compared with a 10% increase in total users. Not only do children represent a growing segment of Internet users, much of what they do online has a specific purpose: education. To help technical communicators create educational Web sites for children, we offer a set of guidelines to direct the design process.

Method: Nine children participated in a usability test of the CARES Playground, an educational Web site geared toward 7- to 9-year-olds. The site was designed by a group of graduate students in professional writing based on a review of the (admittedly limited) literature dealing with designing Web sites for children. This paper matches common themes from existing literature to the results of the usability tests.

Results: Since all the information on designing Web sites for children emerged from the literature of designing Web sites for adults, the themes of navigation, appearance, and content are not unfamiliar. However, the interpretation of those common issues for children—as well as the children's reaction to them—may be surprising.

Conclusion: Technical communicators need to be conscious and deliberate when designing Web sites for children. To ensure that educational Web sites are able to meet their learning goals, careful consideration of children's developmental abilities and Web preferences must be considered. We present several guidelines as a starting point, though further research is needed to confirm and expand upon them.

Keywords: CHILDREN; DESIGN GUIDELINES; USABILITY; WEB SITES

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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