How do we design a website so that it appeals to a specific age group?
To approach this question, let’s compare two websites which are very successfully designed, but use different design approach due to the age group of their target users.
Website designed for adults (+21): CEVA Inc.
CEVA is a licensor of silicon intellectual properties specializing in digital signal processor for mobile devices. CEVA’s website is engineer-centric, loaded with product specifications and application examples as well as supplementary diagrams.
Website designed for kids (-15): Catalog of Pocket Monsters
Pocket Monsters a.k.a. Pokémon is a game series that has been running on Nintendo handheld devices. There are almost 500 types of “Monsters” which are listed in this online catalog (Japanese). The website, part of the official website, is targeted at young users with its simple structure and colorful design.
How the sites are analyzed
I will analyze the two sites in the following dimensions: user roles, user goals, knowledge base, physical abilities, circumstances of use, and culture. The focus is on the difference between adult (andragogy) and child (pedagogy) learning styles in each of the above dimensions. There is no anecdotal evidence about these dimensions for the target websites so I can rely on empirical data through my experience of working in the silicon intellectual property business and growing up in Japan.
User roles and goals
CEVA: staff engineers (obtain specifications), sales managers (check market applications), stakeholders (check invester information)
Most users of CEVA website has official roles in their workplaces. They are conscious about their roles and act according to their titles. The goal of CEVA users is to make decisions: whether to purchase the properties from engineering or management point of view, and whether to invest or not.
Pokémon: researchers (learn monster characteristics), collecters (store data)
Users of Pokémon website do not possess formal titles. They assume the above mentioned roles mostly without awareness of the roles they are playing. The goal of Pokémon users is to gain: know more or store more so that they can compete with their friends or increase their catalog of information.
CEVA: B.S or M.S in engineering
Most users of CEVA website possess a degree in engineering or science-related fields. This is due to the highly sophisticated technology used in the product. Managers and stakeholders usually possess additional skills or degree for sales and investment. Also, they can operate computer applications fairly well and can navigate the website easily.
According to learning theory (andagogy), adults learn best when able to link new knowledge and skills to knowledge and skills learned previously, therefore the website links its contents to various articles and diagrams, making a huge ‘web’ that reaches out even for external sites. The image below shows the website’s sitemap, indicating the complexities of the website.
Pokémon: practical knowledge at playing Pokémon games
Users of Pokémon website most likely own a Pokémon video game or trading cards, so they possess knowledge and skill for playing the game. They do not necessarily possess computer skills.
Besides their limited navigational skill which is discussed later, child users in general prefer receiving an overview of the presented information, then individual examples. The image below shows the search result based on a keyword. We can clearly see the website does not change its structure and presents the overview.
Physical abilities (human factors)
CEVA: older adults with deep navigational skills and some sight problems
All users of CEVA website are adults. Therefore they have enough experience and knowledge to navigate complex information but sometimes need visual enlargements.
The CEVA website has multiple navigational levels, changing its structure according to the page content. Adult learners generally have no problem dealing with it. The image below shows that when viewing specific details, the layout changes drastically from the home page.
Pokémon: schoolkids with limited navigational skills
Users of Pokémon websites have limited experience, therefore prefer to navigate simple websites.
The Pokémon website has only one navigational level: the main screen. No matter what the user does, the screen structure and layout does not move, giving users a comfortable ‘playground’ feeling. This style suits childs with limited navigational capability. The image below shows that even after switching the content from overview to a specific monster, the site structure stays the same.
Circumstances of use
CEVA: during work
CEVA website is focused on providing useful information for making purchasing decisions, engineering-wise and sales-wise. Therefore, users access the website during office hours from their workplace.
Although some images of young ladies are added to attract male-dominated engineering world, the website is text-based, making it Safe-For-Work for any business circumstances. The image below shows how the image is safely accompanied by the text.
Pokémon: during private time
Schoolkids are generally not allowed to access websites at school, and they do not possess portable computers, therefore the website should be accessed mostly from their home. As a result, all screens become image-oriented rather than text-oriented because there is no restrictions as in the adult world, as shown in the screenshot below.
CEVA: large-sized corporates in the US, Europe, and Asia
Geographically users of CEVA site is widely spread among the world, and although most of them belong to the semiconductor industry, their culture is diversed. Therefore the learning should also be influenced more by the users’ similarities than differences. The image below shows an example of an article written in a standard manner accepted by major publications worldwide.
Pokémon: Japanese schoolkids
Although Pokémon is famous worldwide, the website is dedicated to the Japanese-speaking culture. Therefore the users likely share the same cultural backgrounds. The website uses Japanese language and the round-edged, warm-colored tone to emphasize cuteness as the cultural focus as shown in the image below.