In a recent article by Stefanie Olsen of the New York Times she describes some of the things that Search Engines do to make using them a little easier such as using the Arial typeface because its considered more legible than other typefaces or bolding keywords in the link and snippets of your results pages. And as we all know, “search” is not perfect at the best of times. Or what do you do if you get stuck? Now what if you are a kid?
As you might expect things get a little more difficult right from the start. Why? Think about how search works for a moment. Search is based upon entering a keyword(s), which requires the use semantics & language. A child’s grasp of language is typically less than that of an adult, who also tend to be the ones creating much of the content that children are seeking. Children also tend to think about things as questions, not as a straight keyword entry. Now, what about the goals of a child might differ from an adult – for starters how about using search as a starting point for homework? Again, well, what can I say — it sucks to be a kid of you are using a search engine.
So if children are already at a deficient when it comes to search what can be done to help them?
One simple method by showing related searches or other content like video, images or news at the bottom of the page. A search on the word dolphins, for example, shows a set of related searches, (sharks, bottlenose dolphins) and two YouTube videos of dolphins at play. Ms. Druin called the bottom of the screen “valuable territory” because children often focus on their hands and the keyboard when they search and see that space first when they glance up.
Stefan Weitz, director of Bing, said that for certain types of tasks, like finding a list of American presidents, people found answers 28 percent faster with a search of images rather than of text. He said that because Bing used more imagery than other search engines, it attracted more children. Microsoft says Bing’s audience of 2- to 17-year-olds has grown 76 percent since May. “My daughter who’s 5, her typing skills aren’t great, but she can browse images of various dog breeds through visual search,” Mr. Weitz said.
Future trends in search may also be helpful to children. The move toward voice-activated search like the Google voice search on iPhones and Android phones and audio and video search will prove beneficial to children with limited abilities, experts say.
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