Gov.uk wins design award; usability for teenagers
I have begun to share interesting articles, along with my comments, with some staff members internally. It has been suggested that it would be good to publish these on the web team blog as well. So here they are.
This week Gov.uk won the Design of the Year award. It was up against some strong competition, including the Olympic cauldron, the Raspberry Pi computer, and medicine kits designed to be distributed in the gaps in Coca-Cola crates.
Gov.uk combines all of the UK Government’s digital services into one single website. The clear and simple design is strongly focussed on meeting users’ needs, not the government’s needs. This what we should aspire to. The GDS have been very open and inclusive about the design process. Their list of design principles contains a wealth of insight into the thinking that is making their website so successful.
This is important from our perspective as many of our target users are teenagers. It is a mistake to think that young people are better or smarter at using the web. This article looks at how teenagers use websites, busting a few myths in the process.
The main thing I took away from this article is that teenagers come across all of the same usability problems that adults do. Moreover, they are more easily upset by usability problems, so are even more likely than adults to be driven away by a badly designed website.
Teens are not technowizards who surf the web with abandon. And they don’t like sites laden with glitzy, blinking graphics. Teens are often stereotyped as only wanting things that are bold and different. They’re also often viewed as being fearless about technology and constantly connected to some form of media. Although this might be partially true, it’s an oversimplification and letting this steer your design can lead to disastrous outcomes.
An excerpt of the original report mentioned above. This contains some interesting information about teenagers’ security fears surrounding certain types of content (such as opening up new browser windows), and restrictions placed on internet usage by people’s parents and schools. Many users report being unable to use Flash or read PDFs because they are not allowed by their parents to download any software or browser plugins, or because they are blocked on schools’ networks.
“You have to download it. I would go somewhere else, because I don’t have Acrobat Reader on my computer.” — 16-year-old male
“Why do I need Acrobat Reader to see this page? Any Acrobat program is hard to get and it’s expensive. Most people that go on here will not have it. I don’t have Acrobat Reader at home. It’s expensive.” — 14- year-old male