20th January 2012
Website designers may struggle to appeal to sophisticated generation used to online gaming thrills
Web designers looking to attract the attention of tomorrow’s consumers will have to raise their game in order to connect with a generation which has grown up playing sophisticated, content-rich and socially interactive online games.
The conclusion emerged from the latest Intersperience research project ‘Digital Futures’, which found that children as young as eight have mastered complex online tasks to navigate their way through interactive gaming sites and that as a result by comparison, conventional websites hold little appeal for them.
Today’s children play sophisticated interactive online games even as pre-schoolers, taking on virtual opponents, interacting socially and participating in reward and incentive schemes. That means they come to websites expecting a rich experience in terms of graphics, social interaction and multimedia elements. As adults they will expect an equally rich experience from corporate websites but that won’t happen unless web design ratchets up a gear in recognition of the way kids engage online.
Gaming is the favourite online activity in the under-12 age group who enjoy challenges, puzzles, earning virtual currency, progressing through different skill levels and colourful and fun graphics as well as sound and animation. Favourite sites for this age group include Club Penguin and Moshi Monsters although they also engage in educational games both at home and in school.
The research found that children have developed more sophisticated browsing skills through their gaming experiences, characterised by browsing at ‘hyper speed’, absorbing information in what looks like a random way to adults but is actually highly time-efficient. They also develop creativity, problem-solving and team-working skills through collaborative multi-player games which often involve a high degree of social interaction online.
Intersperience Chief Executive Paul Hudson said: “The next iteration of websites must take account of the different attitudes, skills and behaviour of today’s under-18s who are the first generation to have been born into the digital age.”
Current website design is for the most part based on simplicity and ease-of-use to suit the needs of an older demographic of users who browse websites in a linear fashion, in the same way as they consume books, newspapers or other traditional information sources. This partly explains why so many websites today are designed to provide only basic information or to enable users to conduct basic transactions.
Future website design must take into account the fact that the social element of websites exerts a powerful pull on children and teens, enabling them to connect with friends and talk to one another.
Paul Hudson added: “Interactive websites which encourage social interaction represent a virtual playground to under-18s. This challenges web designers to build a social element into every site. It also challenges Facebook and othersocial networking sites to add new dimensions as the digital generation may not value websites whose sole focus is socialising, without offering any other function or benefit.”