Not everyone can read – and some level of illiteracy is especially common within our game’s focus group – 3 year olds. This means we need to make the menus as easy to navigate as possible with minimum frustration. Our main idea is to keep menu systems simple and have least amount of pre-game nonsense. No main menu, for example. Our players will jump right into the level select screen which is quite intuitive as it shows the levels in a visual way.
Children do tend to like the occasional mysterious icon, though – and we will be using these with care, for exploration of non-essential features and ‘power options’.
To sum up the basics, here’s a list:
1. Use as little text as possible.
2. Use icons and pictograms, but make them interesting and meaningful.
3. Avoid unnecessary menus, even if they are considered standard in the industry.
4. Jump quickly into the action.
5. Animation and button visual responsiveness can add fun and purpose when used carefully.
6. Some concepts, such as arrows or “i” buttons, don’t make much sense. Children do seem to pick up touch gestures easily (my 3 y.o. daughter really likes to pinch-zoom in and out to see how big letters can get in texts she wouldn’t be bothered reading…).
7. This has to do with in-app-purchases – make these list menus least abstract if you actually want kids to understand what they are buying (or trying to convince their parents to buy). Money is an abstract concept and while dominant in grown-ups lives I believe we could spare our kids another couple of years before they have to decide whether they would ask their mom to buy them 400 bonu-credits as in-game currency. Purchases such as tools, badges or furry animals are more kids-friendly and promote more satisfaction and less addiction-based buying.