Just An Online Minute... Teens on the Web
The report "Teenagers on the Web: Usability Guidelines for Creating Compelling Websites for Teens," conducted by NNG, observed teenagers who used a variety of Web sites. The study is based on usability studies with 38 users between the ages of 13 and 17. Researchers tested 23 sites, asking the teenagers to visit the sites, perform specific tasks, and think out loud.
"Internet marketers must design for the teens we have, not the teens they wished we had," said Jakob Nielsen, principal of NNG. "Teenagers' low reading skills and lack of critical research abilities may be failures of the educational system, but they are realities, and you have to cater to this audience if you want to win on the Web."
There are approximately 20 million teenagers in the United States who spend an average of $100 per week (TRU). With an estimated 22 million American teenagers expected to be online in 2008, up from 18 million in 2004 (JupiterResearch), the Web will continue to grow as a key vehicle for influencing the teen market.
Here are a few of the report's findings:
Teens aren't the technogeeks that many people assume they are. They achieve a success rate of 55 percent compared to 66 percent for adults; success rate indicates the proportion of times users are capable of completing a representative task.
Teens' poor performance is caused by multiple factors: insufficient reading skills, immature research strategies, and an unwillingness to stick with Web sites that are perceived as difficult.
Use of the word "kid" is a teen-repellant. Web sites that try to serve both children and teens in a single area titled something like "kids" will lose the teens.
Being boring is the kiss of death in terms of keeping teens on Web sites. Teens want to "do" things as opposed to simply sit and read.
Teens are drawn to sites that have social and interactive activities where they can communicate with others, make new friends, and achieve a sense of connecting and belonging.
Teens pay more attention than adults to the way a site looks, but they don't like the heavy, glitzy, blinking graphics that designers think they like; they prefer clean, modest, but still cool designs.
"To engage the teen audience, Web sites need to be visually interesting as well as easy-to-use. And, you shouldn't assume teens are tech experts or have the most ideal computer set-up," said Hoa Loranger, user experience specialist at NNG.