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KidsConnect Website

Orange County Library System, FL
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Innovation Summary

In January 2012, The Orange County Library System went live with a redesigned kid-centric website called KidsConnect. This new website involved researching current web standards for children, increasing interactive and graphical elements for younger viewers, grouping content by age group, and ensuring all library resources are kid-friendly.

Innovation Leader: Amy VanSchaik, Digital Access Architect, vanschaik.amy@ocls.info

Problem Statement

Redesigning the children's website gave the library the opportunity to review the new technologies and web standards that have been developed over the last few years to improve user experience. Based on research, we knew using more visuals and interactivity would help children engage more with our website. The homepage uses pieces of Flash animation to encourage the young user to scrub the screen for interactive elements. Instead of a flat text page, an interactive comic book style story was built to relay to the user the advantages of having a library card. With new third-party services like Flickr and YouTube, we were able to modernize the website by providing easy-to-view slideshows of photographs from programs and videos of storytellers. One of the challenges of building the website was determining how to break up the content into age groups. The previous version of our website for children was directed more towards adults. After reviewing content on the old website, we mapped out three sections: parents/teachers, 7-11 year olds, and preschoolers. The preschool section is designed with large colorful buttons and includes preschool learning games, the 7-11 age range is the majority of the KidsConnect content and includes program information and school help, and the adult section is a Web page dedicated to information on library resources to assist parents.

Innovation

One of the key elements of innovation on our new website for children is usability. During the brainstorming and planning process we read through the Usability of Websites for Children from the Nielsen Norman Group to utilize special techniques to make the website more user-friendly for children. We learned that younger children use "mine-sweeping behavior" to locate clickable areas on the Web page. Using this information we planned to incorporate more graphical and interactive elements into the website. The buttons are designed larger to make it easier for children to hit them when scrubbing with a mouse. When a child interacts with the buttons or other interactive objects there is a visual signal with color changes or increased size of the object to indicate what is clickable on the page. Another key element we focused on in the build of the website was accessibility for mobile devices. The website is designed to recognize not only smartphone devices but tablets as well. On a smartphone, the layout of the website is reformatted to accommodate a smaller screen, while on a tablet the website looks the same except all Flash animation is hidden from the viewer since it is not supported on most devices. To ensure a seamless experience on devices that don't support Flash, interactive elements are swapped out with flat graphics and Web pages largely reliant on Flash are completely hidden.

Progress

We anticipate that this new website will make it easier for children to find kid-friendly library resources. We hope to draw them into more library programs and activities through these visual and interactive elements, as well as providing them with an easy way to get information for early learning and school work. Overall in 2012, the KidsConnect website received 208,282 page views with 33,932 unique visitors.