I wish I could show you the first kids’ website I designed. It was in 1998, for Georgia Public Television, designed to teach preschool kids basic Spanish. It had yellow (yellow!) text on a dark green background, a few animated gifs, some really choppy videos, and a game that I cobbled together in Shockwave with my sub-par Lingo skills. The navigation was complicated and there was way too much instructional copy. But I was proud of it, and it even won a public-television award for “Best of the Web” or something like that.
The show – called SALSA – is still around, but the website’s been redesigned, fortunately. You see, back in the early days of the web, we designed sites for kids just like we designed sites for adults. We just used more pictures and bigger text. True, we were limited by modem speeds, web-safe colors, and 640×480 monitors, but we didn’t really challenge ourselves to think of different, better ways to approach designing for kids.
Here’s an example of a kids’ site circa 1998 (it’s still live today):
Now we know better. We don’t have the same technical limitations. We know a little bit more about how kids use technology. We have the ability – and the responsibility – to create designs for kids that are really FOR KIDS. And we’re starting to see some exciting stuff emerging for kids online. But we’re still not “there yet.” The journey’s just begun.
Here’s where PBS Kids is headed with their Dr. Seuss site:
In writing this book, I hope to share what I’ve learned in my 15 years designing for kids. I’d like to explore new processes for research, design and analysis. But I’m still learning. And I’d like your help. Please join me on this trip to share stories, ideas, questions, examples etc about designing for kids. Tell me what you want to know more about, and what interests you the most about this topic. Tell me what you hope this book will be. We’ll embark on the next phase of this journey together. I look forward to learning with and from you.