To clarify, we want to build a search engine for children below the age of 14. I have a few questions that might affect the experience of this search engine:
Is this search engine general purpose, or geared towards jobs, or hobbies?
What country are we building this search engine for?
I’ll assume we’re building a general purpose search engine with the goal of providing children 14 and under the same capabilities of a search engine that a person from any other age group might use but tailored to the needs of this specific age group. I’ll also assume these users know how to use a computer since they wouldn’t need to use a search engine if they didn’t know how to use a computer.
Now, I’d like to identify and discuss the users that might be using this search engine.
1. Children 14 and under
This is the main group we’d be building the engine for. Children in this age range have
-varying degrees of internet awareness
-different education levels (reading vs writing) and typing ability
-are mostly interested in games and social activities
-are vulnerable to attacks by hackers
-Usually when children 14 and under have access to a computer, their parents have given them this access
-This user group cares about the safety of their children
-They don’t spend as much time doing the same activities on the search engine as their children do
I think we should focus on the children users for now. With that being said, I’d like to report on some of those use cases.
Children under 14
1. Search for and discover content
2. View and understand results for the content they search for so they can quickly get to what they’re looking for
3. Will want to know what their friends are up to so they’ll have shared experiences
Not that I’ve reported on some requirements, I’d like to discuss some possible solutions.
Children under 14
a) Word cloud search: this would show words, and concepts that other children are searching for and allow kids to click on them. This way kids can a) discover popular content and be in the know b) easily click to initiate a search without needing to type in anything
b) Topic search: this is similar to the first idea, but instead of individual words, kids would only see curated topics like (sports games, puzzle games, disney channel stars) and they’ll be able to go a few levels deep to get more specific for each category. This takes the guess work out and allows children to get to content that they care about quickly.
c) Visual auto complete: this would allow children to see actual images of the things that they are typing in once the fetcher gets to a certain level of confidence. When this happens the children can click on an item, and the search engine will complete the search. This will help make children aware of what they are doing and make it easier to execute a search.
a) Visual results: this would ditch the common way we show results today (links and text) in favor of showing previews of the actual websites. This allows children to quickly identify what site they want to visit without needing to read lengthy descriptions.
b) Smart assistant in results: this would be a quick snippet of text for every returned result that would give the child a high level explanation of what they can do on the site before they click it
a) Connect social: this would allow children to connect their social accounts of choice and give them the ability to see sites that their friends have visited on the default search page, but would require opting into the ability.
Search Engine Tech
a)Crawler filter: this search engine should only be crawling sites that are age appropriate. One way this can be done is from the information itself, another way is from looking at the demographics of the users that go to the site itself. It’ll need to ignore any domain that doesn’t fit the children under 14 demographic or that has content that is inappropriate or may be abusive
I think that’s a good list of features. Let’s spend some time prioritizing them based on impact to cost ratio.
1a) Quick Win: High Impact, Low Cost. It’s fairly easy to keep a counter for queries per word, and showing these queries up front would provide a lot value for children.
1b) Must Have: High Impact, High Cost: Relative to the item before this feature would require some more processing to our data set to be able to surface up the right content, and provide further levels of granularity.
1c) Money Pit: Low Impact, High Cost. I think since children are already typing and have somewhat of an idea this won’t provide as much value, and it may be expensive to not only get the images, but be able to surface the right image for each word.
2a) Quick Win: High Impact, Low Cost. I think since most websites are cached it’d be pretty easy to show website previews for what users have searched for, and to make this the primary showing for the results would also be easy put together but make it really easy for children to consume.
3a) Money Pit: Low Impact, High Cost. I think showing a users friends activities could be compelling but we can assume that when we generalize behavior for an age group the behavior is similar so this may not add too much value and be costly.
4a) Must Have: High Impact, High Cost. This is absolutely necessary to power the experience users will see. The technology exists.
Some tradeoffs with these features include:
-not all children can see or are visual so we’d need accessibility affordances in the future
-the curated categories may not be what children want
To summarize, we want to build a search engine for children 14 and under with the goal of making an experience that meets their needs, and allows them to quickly and easily find content. We can do this by including the features 1a, 2a, 1b, and 4a in our MVP.