I am super excited. Copilot was just hired by the Annex Teen Clinic to redesign their website. With any new web project, comes research into new target audiences. The Annex’s target audience? Teens and young adults, primarily ages 15 to 25, who they seek to serve with low-cost, non-judgmental, and fact based sexually related health care services in the North Minneapolis area. Since I’m doing all this research, I thought I’d share it with you. After all, many of us in the nonprofit sector are trying to connect with teens on our websites. The key findings so far?

Myth busted: Teens are not the internet hotshots you (and they) think they are.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to me personally, but what I find amusing is that one of the things that characterizes teen’s internet use is that they overrate their ability to use the web to find and do what they need.

The lesson: You must take pains to make your site easy to use for teens. The stereotypes of teen tech savvy-ness are not true, and their self-ratings of skill are not reliable.

So how good are teens at using the web in general? A recent Nielsen Norman Group study found that in self-directed activities, teens only were able to successfully complete tasks 71% of the time. Compare that number to 83% for adults.

3 top reasons teens surf the web less well than adults:

  1. Teens simply don’t have the reading skills adults do.
  2. They’re less good at researching things, including using tools like search successfully.
  3. They have dramatically lower levels of patience.

Perhaps the most troubling finding to me from the Nielsen Norman Group’s research is that organizations dedicated to social good — government, nonprofits and schools — do the poorest job making their websites usable for teens. We can do better. You’re probably wondering how. Stay tuned. I’ll be writing a series of posts that break down and illustrate sites that do things right for teens, and those that don’t in coming posts.

Photo CC Pabak Sarkur