Top Tips for Usability Testing with Kids
January 12th | 2011 By
One to One Insight, Senior Research Consultant, Jenna Cosquieri has conducted usability testing with kids for The British Council and five – here she offers her top tips for usability testing with kids.
Millions of children today are web users and there are many websites which specifically target children with educational or entertainment content. Despite this however, there is little current insight on usability testing with children, and little knowledge on best practices in terms of web design specifically with children in mind. Usability testing with children provides us with insights into another generation of web users and can prove extremely rewarding in today’s modern world where more and more children are becoming internet users at an early age. This article outlines insights based on One to One Insight’s experience of interviewing children for usability.
The arrival of the child participant into the user testing lab is one of the key moments that can affect his/her experience (and behaviour) during the interview. Children are a lot more susceptible to stress than adults when in an unknown place and with people they are not familiar with. As a result, they are likely to be quiet or shy and therefore the interview will not be an accurate representation of the child’s behaviour in their own environment. It is vital that the child is as relaxed as possible. Communicating with the parent is a useful way of making the child feel at ease – if the parent is calm and comfortable with the situation the child is likely to feel more secure in the environment and engage freely with the website.
Allow the parent to stay in the room where the interview will take place, however ensure that they are aware that they should not attempt to assist the child unless they actively seek guidance.Allow the parent to stay in the room where the interview will take place, however ensure that they are aware that they should not attempt to assist the child unless they actively seek guidance. Explain that it would be valuable if they could help to encourage the child to attempt the tasks alone. It is important to also make this clear to the child and explain that you want to see how easy or difficult they find the test material without help. Clearly explain to the child that it is a not a test for them. Children may become frustrated and disappointed if they cannot complete a task, so it is important not to let a child attempt the same task too many times. Provide positive feedback throughout the interview and motivate the child. A useful way of doing this is by letting the child know that they are helping you to improve the website and make it easier for their friends and other children to use.
Children lose interest a lot faster than adults and get easily distracted in the environment around them, so it is important to remove as many distractions as possible from the studio. Also, ensure to take short breaks for the child as they are less able to focus for long periods of time. It is not advisable to conduct interviews lasting longer than 60 minutes if possible, as the child will lose interest by this point and feedback may not be accurate, however One to One Insight has conducted successful interviews with older children lasting up to 90 minutes. If possible, avoid giving the child long tasks which they would be unlikely to complete themselves at home. Ensure to prioritise tasks if there are key areas of the site the client wants feedback on, so that children are not attempting these at a stage where they may be losing interest. Also, allow for natural exploration, if a child begins to explore a later task, allow them to do so and bring them back to the other tasks later.
The use of images is highly recommended in order to capture the child’s feelings towards aspects of the site. Interestingly, children are likely to be less verbal than adults throughout an interview. This may be due to shyness, fear of saying the wrong thing, or the simple fact that children find it more difficult to communicate their thoughts. Therefore, it is important to observe the child carefully for reactions and facial expressions as they provide huge insight into the child’s perception of the site. The use of images is highly recommended in order to capture the child’s feelings towards aspects of the site. For example, in past studies One to One Insight has used ‘smiley face’ images indicating varying levels of happiness from ‘very happy’ with a large smile, to a face with a frown and tears, and asked the child which one suits their feelings best.
One to One Insight’s findings have shown that children are not as likely as audlts to scroll down pages of a website, so information below the fold of the page is likely to be overlooked. Children enjoy websites with bright colours, simple navigation, and appropriate content. If the child is not interested in the content they are unlikely to want to explore and return to the site. Ensure there are fun games and music on the website to keep a child’s interest, and reward children for completing puzzles and progressing on the site.
Bearing these factors in mind, structure a usability interview with a child with care, and ensure that a pilot study is completed with a child at least a day in advance; finding out that your test scenario is inappropriate on the first participant is already too late. If done correctly, interviews with children can unlock insights which can reveal how engaged your young audience is and therefore the extent to which they might become brand advocates to their friends and parents.