Guardian launches Children's Books site in time for World Book Day
Today is World Book Day, and The Guardian has launched a new area of the website dedicated to Children’s books. Aimed at kids and teenagers from 1 to 16, a lot of the direction and content of the site has been driven by a panel of children that were recruited at the tail-end of last year.
I’ve been very impressed with the way the editorial team have been so inclusive of the children as the site developed, which has included consulting them on the design and getting feedback on some dummy runs of the podcast that goes with the site. Doing online community that involves children adds a lot of complexity to a project, and they’ve still handled it in a user-centred way.
My colleague Karen Loasby, who I am newly re-united with at The Guardian, pointed out that it is sometimes easier to be user-centred if your target audience is so demonstrably different from you. If you are making a site for children, you know you are not the target audience. Likewise, as she found at the RNIB, if you were one of the sighted employees, you knew your services were not aimed at you.
Another challenge with the Children's Books site has been to take the R2 templates that we use on guardian.co.uk, and inject them with the kind of visual language that will appeal to children across a range of ages. At one meeting I confess that I did try to invoke the threat that “kittens will die” if the designs led to building brand new components that did almost exactly the same thing as an existing one, but just slightly differently and in a more kid-friendly fashion.
I can happily confirm that no kittens were harmed in the launch of this website.
There was a piece in the paper on Saturday trailing the launch, suggesting that older kids could play a key role in recommending books to their younger siblings, and that ultimately, when it comes to the books that we cherish from our childhood, we are all just “older kids”. I wouldn’t disagree. Books we remember well from childhood live with us for a long time. My well-loved and battered copy of Jill Tomlinson’s “The owl who was afraid of the dark” still sits on my shelves today.