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Editor's Note: Combining Children, Technology, and Usability

By Cynthia Cortez Kamishlian

Children live in a world where much of the technology they use daily was designed by adults to be used by other adults. And yet, this first group of “digital natives” is an eager adopter of new technology. As usability professionals, we are in the early stages of learning to design for, and solicit feedback from, these younger users. Several things make this challenging. First, children’s physical and cognitive abilities are still developing. The comprehension level, worldliness, and coordination skills of a five-year-old are very different from those of a thirteen-year-old. This makes creating usable technology for younger children vastly different than for older children. Second, children’s ability to communicate their ideas, feelings, and needs is different than the ability of an adult, which means we need to apply different methods of “listening” to gather children’s feedback.

Furthermore, for products where children are not the primary target users (such as search engines and many websites), it can be tempting to bypass usability testing with children altogether, partly due to our uncertainty of how best to access this population and conduct testing with minors. This special issue on children and usability explores how various teams addressed these and other challenges inherent in usability testing with children.

There is more work to be done to understand how children interact with technology and how we, as usability professionals, can include children in the design process to optimize their experience. This issue seeks to provide a foundation for our understanding and insights into how to create usable products for those whose brains are still growing and developing. Hopefully, you will agree that we accomplished our objective.UX


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User Experience Magazine is by and about usability professionals, featuring significant and unique articles dealing with the broad field of usability and the user experience.

This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2011.

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