Update: here’s an article from CNN about the new study…
This is a must read: Usability of Websites for Teenagers (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).
From the article: “Many people think teens are technowizards who surf the Web with abandon. It’s also commonly assumed that the best way to appeal to teens is to load up on heavy, glitzy, blinking graphics. Our study refuted these stereotypes.”
Teens succeeded in the usability tests only 55% of the time, which in usability is BAD. The study showed that teens’ poor performance centered around three things: “insufficient reading skills, less sophisticated research strategies, and a dramatically lower patience level.” – in other words, they’re… well… teens.
Teens DO like cool-looking websites, and pay more attention to graphics… but found modest clean web design to be more usable.
Here’s another good quote from the article: “Teenagers like to do stuff on the Web, and dislike sites that are slow or that look fancy but behave clumsily.” – think about that one – can teens DO stuff on your library’s website? Or is your teen’s site made up primarily of lists of links and books?
Here are some suggestions from the article about interactive stuff to include on a teen’s website:
online quizzes: How about a Harry Potter quiz, with a drawing for free movie passes for the winners?
feedback/comment/question forms For starters, you could ask teens what they want the website to do (of course, then you just might have to DO what they asked for).
online voting: Have them vote on local issues, surround the voting page with explanations of the issues, and see what happens – could be fun.
games: Gaming is HUGE right now for teens. Buy books on gaming, point to gaming websites, or even go one further and set up gaming days at the library.
sharing pictures or stories: Hold a photography contest, and put the winner’s pictures online.
message boards: teen book/music/dvd clubs, local and world issues, etc – just a place for teens to connect with each other to get and share information.
offering and receiving advice: This can be where you use that virtual reference service to connect with teens.
a way to add their own content: We’ve thought about online poetry slams and articles written by teens/for teens…
These are just a few ideas. Go read the Nielsen article and start thinking!