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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Children get impatient on the net
Children on the internet, BBC
Children love interactivity but lose patience easily
Children may be more net-savvy than their parents but they can get just as frustrated by poorly-designed websites, a new survey has found.

A study by the US design think tank, the Neilsen Norman Group (NNG), observed children using a wide range of websites.

It found that the bells and whistles often used on sites designed for kids do not necessarily impress.

"Our study convinced us that most websites for children are built upon pure folklore about how kids supposedly behave," said web design guru Jakob Nielsen from NNG.

"While it is true that kids love whizz bang animation and sound effects, even these things won't hold their attention if they come upon something too difficult to figure out or they get lost on a website."

Kids love interactivity

Like adults, children were quick to close a window and find something else to do, said Mr Nielsen.

Children on the net
65.3m in US and Europe are online at home
They like animation and sound effects
More likely to click on ads
Willing to read instructions
Children are forming a rapidly growing and important group on the web.

According to Datamonitor, 65.3 million children aged between five and 17 have access to the net at home in the US and Western Europe, while 54.1 million have access at school.

The survey found that children rarely scroll pages and mainly interact with information visible on the screen. They love interactivity and will roll the mouse over a page searching for interactive resources.

Online advertisers struggling through the downturn in the internet economy will be heartened to hear that children, in contrast to adults, do not distinguish between content and advertising and are likely to click on ads.

The report also found a difference between how boys and girls use the net. Boys are more annoyed by verbose pages while girls like instructions.

Boys are also more likely to spend time alone on the computer whereas girls spend more time with a parent.

Older surfers more patient

What did surprise us is what good sports the seniors were

Jakob Nielsen
NNG also conducted a survey into how senior citizens use the web and found that they were far more patient than the younger generation.

A study of over-65s found that although older people found navigating the web harder than younger people, they were more prepared to find the information they wanted.

On average it took older people 12.5 minutes to complete a task on the web, compared with just over seven minutes for the youngsters.

"Given that most websites are produced by young people who probably take it for granted that all web users have perfect vision and motor control, we weren't surprised that the seniors had a tougher time," said Mr Nielsen.

"What did surprise us is what good sports the seniors were about it. They tended to see the positive parts in generally negative experience and enjoyed a good challenge," he said.

See also:

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Keep the web simple, stupid
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