Zivtech already had significant site building experience in the field of education. But TIME for Kids posed new challenges, not least of which was building an application accessible to children.
Throughout the project, our development team remained in close collaboration with editors at TIME for Kids. This collaboration and their expertise was essential to building an intuitive front-end user experience (UX) that was child friendly. Our developers used Drupal to build dynamic flashcards. We simplified the node creation/edit form and made design improvements for accessibility, such as increasing the size of fonts and buttons. On the backend, we created views bulk operations based pages and implemented help text for editors directly into views, node forms, and field descriptions.
Usability testing was a key component of the TIME for Kids project. Our developers already knew children have difficulty using a mouse to drag, drop, and scroll. Moreover, many have yet to learn typing skills. But we were surprised to discover other stumbling blocks.
In testing young children, we found they frequently did not understand a broad range of interface text including, for example, the acronym "URL." Children tended only to utilize the most basic application features. They also skipped instructions—especially those that were lengthy or in small font—because of the assumption that they were meant for adults. Children also tended to double-click buttons and "enter" after completing text fields.
Our developers and designers quickly learned about building a successful user experience for children. For example, font must be greater than 12px and children themselves should be asked to re-write interface text. But pages should still function like modern websites. Organizations should not "hide the real web" by creating alternative experiences (e.g., flash-based sites or applications). Children build and reinforce useful skills while navigating real patterns and form elements. For this reason, our developers found that simplification was beneficial only to a point.
Privacy requirements posed another challenge with TIME for Kids. Children’s information cannot be stored to a database. We surmounted this challenge by providing the option to save to RTF or print. Our developers obscured URLs specific to custom flashcards and built a views-based custom cron job to expire cards after two weeks time.
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