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Title: Designing effective animated icons for children
Author: Kaur, Manjinder
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 4076
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Brunel University
Date of Award: 2011
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Information Technology is an essential part of the National Curriculum in the UK, yet despite the growth of IT in schools that this has generated, there is evidence that children are not to be taken into consideration enough when designing aspects of educational software. The functionality available in education software packages tends to be made available through static icons, yet there are problems with their implementation as they can at times cause confusion for the user in terms of the functionality that they are aiming to represent. In order to make icons in educational software more effective, and to meet the needs of children, of the use of animated icons has been suggested. Animating the function of the icon aims to provide a clarification of its meaning and demonstrate its capabilities, as well as explaining to the user the method of use. However, there is little information available on how to support the design of effective animated icons. Focusing on a target age group of 11 to 12 year olds, this thesis argues that some form of support mechanism should be developed for the design of animated icons to ensure that consideration is being given to the types of object that children find useful and accessible. A set of dimensions where guidance on visual aspects of the icon may be useful are developed through analysis of relevant literature and it is highlighted that they do not provide any insight into what types of object may be helpful in designing the animated icons. This thesis then argues that animated icon design can be usefully informed by psychological theories of learning and that using such theories as a base may provide an understanding of how children identify icon functionality. The thesis introduces and critiques Piaget’s Genetic Epistemology theory, Vygotsky’s Sociocultural theory and Leontjev’s Activity Theory, identifying aspects of the theories which may be of relevance to the design of animated icons. By investigating the relationships between the dimensions of animated icons and the concepts from the theories of learning, insights are developed into the impact of visual factors on a child’s identification and understanding of icon functionality. The thesis goes on to report a practical study where the sample is a group of 11 to 12 year old children. The practical study consists of three phases. The first phase gathers data related to the children’s familiarity with computers and the types of software packages that they use. The second phase looks at their use and recognition of static icon functionality. The last phase involves using the findings from phases 1 and 2 to create and evaluate a set of animated icons, the development of which is based on the relationships between the concepts from theories of learning and the identified dimensions of animated icons. The analysis of the evidence from the practical study leads to a small set of design principles being proposed that are aimed to provide advice/guidance on how to design animated icons effectively for this target age group, with an emphasis on the types of object that might be used. The principles are underpinned by the concepts from the theories of learning and presented in a manner that aims to be understandable by, and accessible to, designers.
Supervisor: Macredie, R. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Animated icons ; Design principles ; Icon dimensions ; Theories of learning ; Children (11-12 years old)