IXD301 How to Design for Children

In the BBC guidelines, they have included a number of how to articles including how to design for children.

The post outlines 7 principles on how to create great digital experiences for children.

  1. Positive feedback
  2. Be visual, reduce text
  3. Make the goal immediately clear
  4. Be heard
  5. Animage with personality
  6. Craft a character-led experience
  7. Forgiving design


Positive feedback

By including positive feedback you can help to create moments of joy for a child using your app. By celebrating an achievement you help to build a growth mindset. It’s important to reinforce that mistakes are ok particularly when designing for children to make sure that they don’t become confused or feel they’re being punished. As I am creating a game this is really important. If the child playing my game loses I should make sure to use the correct language to encourage them to try again and reinforce achievements when they win with positive language like “fantastic” and “amazing”.

Be visual, reduce text

This can be achieved by keeping words to a minimum and using images and icons instead. It’s also advised to be bold e.g. using bold text and keep the surrounding areas clear so the text can be easily read. As my app has a storyline this will be an important consideration for me. I think the best way for me to handle this is to split the text up on different screens and add an audio option so that the story can be listened to, not just read.

Make the goal immediately clear

Children want instant gratification so it’s important to tell them where they are and what to do next. I think an approach I could take to this is to use a bar on the screen that moves as progress through the game. This will allow the child to know where they are and how many levels are left to complete. I could also provide visual indications of what to do in each task and more explanatory hints if they still can’t complete the tasks.

Be heard

As stated in the BBC guidelines

“Audio adds meaning to UI elements and content. It’s a powerful tool which enriches the experience and aids accessibility.”

I think this is an incredibly important consideration as reading abilities will vary in children and the motivation children have to read will be lower with 6 – 9-year-olds finding reading still quite tedious. This is looked at further in the designing for children toolkit.

Animate with personality

Animation is great for providing entertainment and positive feedback to the interaction a child is making with an app. Personality can be added to animations to convey a variety of emotions e.g humour, drama. This will also help to create a more immersive experience of the child playing the app.

While I may not have time to fully animate my prototype I can consider this for future planning and show personality between frames.

Craft a character-led experience

Adding a character to an app can make it more memorable. It’s also important to note that children love characters.

Forgiving Design

As children’s fine motor skills are still developing it’s important to make interactions forgiving. This will help to avoid the app frustrating children when they make mistakes. I think that making an area around the target e.g. a small button responsive to the interaction will be helpful with this.


Children’s Toolkit

Designing for children toolkit

I wanted to focus primarily on the information provided in relation to 6 – 9-year-olds as my age range is 8 – 10 and what works for 8-year-olds will be achievable for 10-year-olds. The main areas that jump out to me are:

  • Literacy levels can vary considerably, tablets are still the most popular device.
  • Children have autonomy of controls under the guidance of parents.
  • Children are becoming more socially sophisticated in their online use e.g. social aspects of online games and even setting up their own social media.

Designing for children toolkit

Points that jump out to me in the above table relating to the level of development at eight years are:

  • Using paragraphs, collective nouns, descriptives
  • Children’s maths skills are developing to include adding and subtracting numbers with four digits and multiplying 3 digit numbers by 1 digit numbers.
  • 72% use a tablet to go online
  • 36% of parents are likely to use parental control software
  • 41% of parents are most likely to use network-level content filters
  • Peer pressure is medium
  • Awareness of online risk is medium

This gives me a rough guide of how sophisticated I can make language and at what level I can include maths tasks if required.


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