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Kids are not amused

Attention spans at all-time low online

Despite the fact that children are generally more competent at using the internet than their parents, they still get just as frustrated as adults by poorly-designed websites, according to research by usability think-tank the Nielson Norman Group.

The study found that sites that glossed poor content over with colourful pictures and interesting noises did not fool children.

"While it is true that kids love whiz bang animation and sound effects, even these things won't hold their attention if they come across something too difficult to figure out or they get lost on a website," said the group's web design guru Jakob Nielson.

A study released earlier this year by Abbey National which focused on the surfing habits of adults recommended companies followed the 'twenty seconds' rule.

Most of the adults questioned said they generally only gave a website between 10 and 30 seconds to catch their interest before they head off to another site. It seems children are an even more demanding audience.

NNG found that if children did not find a website immediately satisfying they went elsewhere.

Although the survey confirmed that children do love interaction, many of them would not scroll through sites to find extra information and would only interact with information immediately visible on the screen.

There was also a difference between the surfing habits of boys and girls. Lengthy instruction pages typically bemused the male of the species, while girls welcomed help.

But on a positive note for online advertisers, many children did not distinguish between adverts and contents in the same way adults do and were more likely to click on pop-up adverts.

"Our study convinced us that most websites for children are built on pure folklore about how kids supposedly behave," said Nielson.

With 65.3 million children (aged between five and 17) surfing the internet at home and a further 54 million with internet access at school, according to figures by research firm Datamonitor, it's about time web designers really focused on what children want.

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