Anyone that follows Amanda Murphy’s Xbox and SharePoint blog is probably seen many mentions and photos of “Arnold” her 3 year old nephew.
This story is about paying attention to habits and learning usability by seeing it in action. Recently I was sitting at a computer with Arnold watching him browse the Disney website which I might add he found using MSN Seach himself (at 3 that is scary isn’t it).
What I noticed was just how much kids rely on visuals to match things up. While browsing the site he actually made a comment about “No not that one, This one ..”.
What he was referring to was the navigation on the page, more specifically the icons that were next to the items.
There are areas that have text based navigation and others that have small icons next to them. The one with the small icons he was able to associate with, knowing what disney characters etc. look like.
Based on the small block icons that represented movies etc. he was actually able to get to what he wanted on his own.
The moral of the story is you can learn usability by observing habits, even from a 3 year old.
When used properly a small visual representation / icon of a link can certainly boost the usability of a website, rather than browsing through text to search for something to click on we can see it, associate with it and get to the information faster and easier.
It’s certainly something to think about. Take search engines for example. If searches for ‘kids websites’ displayed a small visual icon next to the results that they could see and associate with I’d put my bottom dollar on statistics showing that they would be much more likely to click that visual than click something that may be inappropriate.