Phil Butler joins the SitePoint blogging team, reporting on the newest beta web applications.
Can the children’s browser KIDO’Z help moms and dads ensure safe surfing for their children? Or perhaps more importantly, from a development standpoint, can narrowly focused niche tools effectively provide the greatest value to Web consumers? In my opinion, the answer is yes, and here’s why.
For those of us working on the Web, the last three years, to a degree, have been about niche development and marketing—targeted ads and a whole range of innovations that have sought to engage the Web audience. From geeks to geezers, marketers and site owners have endeavored to garner page views, and ultimately customers, with a seemingly endless array of widgets, tools, ploys, wowing technology and out and out circus wizardry. But somehow, the most important and profitable niche in the world has been largely overlooked.
Mommy, Can I?
Kids are without a doubt the holy grail of a monetized Web, yet no one has grabbed a substantial market share of this estimated 2.1 trillion dollar market (US only). This fact begs the question; “What kind of application or service could grab the widespread attention of children, and keep it?” According to every expert resource there is, Moms make the spending decisions for most families, and a child’s “want” craving is a powerful parental stimulus. In a (*.pdf) study performed by the Marketing to Moms Coalition in 2007, the top 5 priorities for the Mom spending group are:
- Her relationship with her children
- Quality of education and teachers
- Safety –- in the physical and digital world
- Drug and alcohol use prevention
- Healthy eating and exercise
Sure, there are sites for kids all over the Web, but none that provide a hub—none so notable that we think of them in the every day—and least of all a kids browser. Until now, that is. Enter KIDO’Z, a kids-only web browser, written in Adobe AIR by a Tel Aviv-based startup. If there was ever a marketing “no brainer”, at least in my view, then engaging kids and families would be it.
A Tiny Surf Board
Of over 500 beta tests I have been involved with in the last three years, KIDO’Z is without a doubt the simplest and easiest concept to convey to others. Google taught us that minimalist was in vogue, and simplicity and discoverability are the beta tester’s dogma for description. The KIDO’Z browser can easily be outlined thus:
- UI -– simple, elegant and flawlessly usable for the user (that would be the child)
- Discoverability -– A child could do it (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
- Navigation –- One slight flaw, in that navigating back to “Home” has only one button
- Aesthetics –- Beautiful and sweet, as any kid’s tool should be
- User Experience -– Pointing and clicking to find cool and educational stuff is fun
- User Value -– Only the highest quality content sites, though currently limited in number.
- Safety and Security –- Nothing exists in the KIDO’Z matrix of browser sites that is not child-safe
As the screenshots below indicate, less is definitely more in the case of the KIDO’Z browser. No typing is necessary at all, and kids can simply click through to appropriate games, websites, or videos supplied by some of the best children’s destinations in the world.
As an added bonus feature, the KIDO’Z browser also functions as a suggestive search engine. So “the little surf board that could” may well be the paradigm shift catalyst for suggestion engine relevance superiority. I know for certain that the team behind Microsoft’s Powerset (and no doubt the Google folks, too) are addressing the very nature of reorganizing search, but that is a subject for another study.
KIDO’Z is safe, period. Users cannot venture outside the KIDO’Z environment. One aspect that may need to be addressed though, is the capacity for parents to block sites that they do not want their kids to visit out of sheer preference. Aside from this nice-to-have feature, the KIDO’Z crew are focused on tweaking their browser based on user feedback, and adding features such as allowing users to add more sites to the whitelist.
Ironically, I’ve been talking with notable web developers of late about the value of niche tools like KIDO’Z. These “web innovators” all agree that kid browsers and search engines are viable and needed tools, but beyond their simple interest and curiosity, they can’t see much value in the concept. With everyone on the planet looking for a “Google Killer”, how can hundreds of millions of potential users and trillions of dollars not be appealing to the world’s greatest innovators—let alone investors?
Perhaps KIDO’Z and similar ideas are just too simple?