Shocking news, everyone! Age plays a factor in how we figure out Web site navigation! According to a new study in the journal Psychology & Marketing, younger kids do better with maps and visual “learning clues” while older kids are better at scanning lists of content.
Younger children (ages 7 – 9) preferred a map because they tend to process information holistically. Older children (ages 10 – 13) were better able to use a content list, because they are more equipped to select information and ignore irrelevant material.
This might smack of “Well, obviously” since older kids are generally better readers; but not all Web designers have kids, and not all Web sites are designed by intelligent, rational people with a commitment to their users. Studies like this will help those intelligent, committed Web designers explain to the boss why a list of links is not appropriate for a site targeted at young kids.
I think the more interesting question is how does heavy Web use affect the way we perceive things in the real world? For example, I am almost blind to blinking flashing sections of Web pages: I know those are ads, and my brain has pretty well learned to ignore them. Does this make me less observant of blinky flashy things in the real world?