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Tuesday 27 March 2007

More on DirectGovKids

Public Sector Forums have been having Fun with DirectGovKids - the new Flash-driven animated route for children to information and *stuff* about government.

Needless to say these grown-up (very grown-up) journos focus on the cow-pooing game.

Well, for all I know this may be teaching a six year-old something vital about the environment! Plus fun and games is a very good way to get a message over

... however they also focus on the accessibility issue and, having looked a bit harder, there are two issues besides the obvious one they point to, and they're to do with the choice of Flash. *NB: With the content, I haven't been through it with a fine tooth comb, I may have missed something. Please don't make me...
  1. Availability.
    This is often a problem with networks (think big companies) - Flash isn't available everywhere or can be blocked.
    If, for example, this is a kids route to information not just on how to dress firemen but also to report abuse, then any barrier is indefensible.
    Industry usually banks on a five year time lag before everyone catches up technologically. i.e. yes, some people still have dial-up and creaky connections + equipment. Do you just ignore them, especially when making accessibility claims? There isn't an alternative version.
  2. Usability.
    Just start from remembering that this sort of application is actually very new. Then think that ATMs have existed for forty years — could there still not be some improvement with ATMs?
    Basically, Flash obviously has some usability issues particular to it and with how it's generally used - the Flash design trope. Studies have found, for example, drop-off rates of a third between Web (HTML etc) pages and Flash pages. Also, do not assume that all kids are universally highly web-proficient - this isn't the case. Flash is great. We love Flash. It has great uses. But it has issues.
  • Content.
    From what I could see, there doesn't appear to be content aimed at disabled kids. There has been an effort from what I could see with learning disability but otherwise it appears that they've abrogated this in the main content - e.g. think dyslexia.
  • Kids-specific.
    This site could also be used to train kids (hopefully, helping out teachers and carers) how to properly and with knowledge use the Internet — after all, they're already there, on the Web.
    There have been some worrying studies which show that kids are far more likely to accept ad claims and be seduced by ads online - this is why people like fast food advertisers spend so much on it.
    The pervasiveness of the reach of advertising at kids is now extending very lucratively into gaming.
    The site could definitely be used to help counteract those very powerful counterweights to other messages - like healthy eating.
Heeeere's Jakob ...

The most notable finding in our study was that children click website advertisements. Unfortunately, they often do so by mistake, thinking ads are just one more site element. In nine years of testing adults, we can count on the fingers of two hands the total number of times they've clicked website advertising. But kids click banners. They cannot yet distinguish between content and advertising. On the contrary, to kids, ads are just one more content source. If a banner contains a popular character or something that looks like a cool game, they'll click it. Pokémon, here we come. (Kids clicked on Pokémon characters even though they were simply featured in banner ads for other products, rather than as links to a Pokémon site.) We strongly recommend that parents, educators, and other caretakers spend time acquainting children with the realities of Internet advertising and teach them how to recognize ads.
>> More - Kids' Corner: Website Usability for Children
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