Effective Design of Educational Websites for Elementary Age Children: A User-Centered Study
Many educational websites for elementary age students exist on the internet today, however there is a need for more research to be completed into order to determine the level of effectiveness with which these sites operate. The goal of this research and design project is to identify usability and aesthetic problems that exist and consequently solve those problems. This research study was conducted in three stages. The first stage consisted of an analysis of a current, popular educational website, www.funbrain .com, to distinguish potential problems with the navigation, information architecture, and visual appearance, based on previously published research. A set of hypotheses and a new site design is proposed based on the correction of these problems. The second stage involves testing both websites with students in grades two through five. Twelve students participated in the preference measure testing in which students used both sites to complete the same objective and offered their opinions as to which they preferred in terms of ease of use, visual appearance and enjoyment. Ten students participated in the performance measures testing which used time on task and error and assistance analysis to compare the two websites. The data obtained from the testing was analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative methods and a set of recommendations for effective design of educational websites for elementary age children was developed based on the findings drawn from data. The third and final stage of the project involves a second iteration of the website redesign which incorporates the recommendations from the second stage. One of the most compelling findings revealed that while the redesigned site was easier for the students to use, the ease of use did not automatically dictate the student’s preference in terms of visual appearance or enjoyment. The most important conclusion drawn from this study is the need to balance user preferences with ease of use to create an interface which is both appealing and effective.
Facilitator: Ester Mukete