Lessons from Sesame Street: Designing Digital Content for Children

Ebooks now make up 11% of sales for children’s books, and seems to be a growing preferred platform for the little ones. Furthermore, the

Ebooks now make up 11% of sales for children’s books, and seems to be a growing preferred platform for the little ones. Furthermore, the durability of tablets have made parents more apt to share their digital devices with children or hand down their old ones. This is backed up by additional research showing that tablet usage soars during prime-time and just before bed. So if you’re targeting the 0-8 age group and their parents, it’s time to start thinking of how to get your content on tablet devices.Fortuitously, Sesame Street recently presented its lessons learned in publishing digital content for children, particularly mobile apps, at the Publisher’s Launch conference, and had some interesting take-aways:(Full disclosure: I used to work for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, and have a soft spot for their research-based content creation.)

  • All content should never be more than two taps away.
  • Design for small hands and growing minds (big, colorful icons that are easily distinguishable).
  • Make it easy to skip over instructions after they’ve played once. Kids don’t like waiting and neither do parents.
  • For early childhood, audio cues should be accompanied by visual cues (perhaps a “soft glow” around an item).
  • Young children have a hard time holding a tablet vertically, so design in landscape mode. Also keep icons away from the bottom of the screen where children tend to rest their hands.
  • Content should be related. Don’t just throw in extras as a bonus feature. Parents don’t like encouraging ADD in their kids.
  • Parents may be open to cross-sells but don’t want their children to come across them. Keep cross-sell/up-sell advice in a separate “For Parents” section.

And ethically-speaking, children shouldn’t be able to purchase anything without parental action or oversight. Seriously. You may get great conversion rates with children, but if parents aren’t on board, you’re likely to be satirized as a drug dealer on The Daily Show.

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