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Sharna Jackson and Rob Adamson, Doing it for the kids: Tate Online on engaging, entertaining and (stealthily) educating six to 12 year olds
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Sharna Jackson and Rob Adamson, Doing it for the kids: Tate Online on engaging, entertaining and (stealthily) educating six to 12 year olds


A presentation from Museums and the Web 2009. …

A presentation from Museums and the Web 2009.

Children between the ages of six and 12 are not a homogenous mass. Both ends of the age range have differing needs, abilities and expectations. When designing a Web site for them, it is crucial to appeal not only to all of them, but also to their 'gatekeepers' – their parents and teachers, who tend to manage their time online. Taking the new Tate Kids Web site as a case study ( , this paper will outline a process of designing a Web site that attempts to meet the needs of the three audiences, while embodying the Tate Kids ethos: smart, fun, irreverent, anarchic content with educational value. It will outline the graphic design process, the strategy for user testing, the importance of differentiating content, and the purpose of an adult zone. It will discuss our efforts to alleviate online safety fears and the use of teachers' notes to support the use of the Web site in the classroom.

A unique aspect of Tate Kids is My Gallery, a carefully managed online community. Here users create profiles, upload their own art, take work from the Tate Kids Collection (a subset of around 500 works from the online collection) and save work they have created in two new games: Tate Paint and Street Art. This paper will discuss how this functionality was created, and how its audiences are receiving it. This paper will also discuss how Tate Kids will be developed in the future and will also look at the possibility of working in partnership with external companies to share audiences.

Session: Young Audiences and Creators [Technology]

Published in Technology
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  • Hello, I’m Sharna, the Kids Editor at Tate. I joined Tate in Sept 2007, when the role was created. I come from an e-learning and educational marketing background, which had a lot of bearing on the way I approached the new site. That, and the fact I’m the female version of Tom Hanks in the 80s film Big. Tate Kids officially launched July 2008. Today I’m going to be talking about Tate Kids, it’s background, design and development and its future. Rob will be talking about some of the technical elements, specifically how we managed the integration of content created in our games into our bespoke app My Gallery, a place where users can also upload their own work and the Tate Kids Collection - a subset of 500 works from the Tate Collection, selected for children with child-friendly tags.


  • 1. Doing it for the kids: Tate Online on engaging, entertaining and (stealthily) educating six to 12 year olds Sharna Jackson - Tate Kids Editor Rob Adamson - Application Developer
  • 2. Tate Kids pre (re) launch…
  • 3. Tate Kids today
  • 4. Tate Kids had to…
    • appeal to a diverse audience
  • 5. Tate Kids had to…
    • appeal to a diverse audience … while stealthily educating them
  • 6. Tate Kids had to…
    • have a unique but fitting visual style , with well written copy
  • 7. Future plans
    • Promotion
    • New content
    • Extend the brand
    • Forge partnerships
    • Win the Webby
  • 8. Tying it all together
    • Integrating game client- & server-sides
    • Integrating games with My Gallery
  • 9. Tate Kids Games
    • 4 basic interactions:
      • create
      • save (publish to game-specific gallery)
      • send to My Gallery
      • send to a friend (email)
    • Constraints:
      • must be able to use without logging in
      • content must be approved before being displayed to other users
  • 10. Tate Kids Games
    • Tate Paint
      • client-side developed externally, in Flash
      • server-side developed internally, in Java
    • Street Art
      • client-side developed externally, in Flash
      • server-side – re-use of Tate Paint server-side
    • Tate Tales
      • client & server-side: Wordpress (HTML / PHP)
  • 11. My Gallery Integration
    • Goals:
      • Allow a user to add works created in the games to their gallery
      • Respect moderation status of work
      • Support a convenient moderation workflow
      • Allow for new games
      • Allow for evolution of My Gallery
      • Flexibility to handle any changes to hosting
  • 12. Design Strategy
    • Minimise coupling
      • no shared state (databases, files)
      • use messaging between My Gallery and games
    • Whole transaction per request
      • simplifies locking and database transaction handling
      • simplifies protocol
    • “ Parameterise from Above” (Kevlin Henney)
      • no hardcoded external references
      • configure from outside (“above”) the code
  • 13. The Protocols
    • My Gallery and the game back-ends provide web services (XML over HTTP) for each other
    • Game back-ends provide interface to Flash front-ends
      • Flash cannot send files using multipart/encoded!
      • So send the file as the content (image/jpeg) and put the data in URL parameters
    • Game front-ends only talk to their back-ends, not to My Gallery directly
  • 14. A client/server protocol
    • Tate Paint / Street Art
      • save (POST, image/jpeg)
        • parameters: name, title, age, country, galleries
        • response: id of the new painting
      • send (POST)
        • parameters:
          • id
          • smg = true | false (send to My Gallery)
            • My Gallery username & password
          • stf = true | false (send to friend by email)
            • friend's name, email address, personal message
      • GET methods:
        • image (jpeg), gallery (xml), painting (xml)
  • 15. A client/server protocol
    • URL base of back-end is passed to client via Flash parameter
      • <param name=&quot;flashvars&quot; value=&quot;tateURL=; />
  • 16. Integration Protocol
    • Games are registered with My Gallery using the online admin interface
    • The registration record comprises the service URLs
    • URLs pertaining to an individual work are specified in a template form
      • e.g. {artRef}
  • 17. Integration Protocol
    • Game registration includes:
      • game homepage URL
      • game icon URL
      • work showcase URL
      • work data URL (XML)
      • approved work list URL (XML of references only)
      • approve action URL
      • reject action URL
  • 18. Integration Protocol
    • My Gallery presents:
      • artifact upload (POST)
        • Parameters:
          • username,
          • password,
          • game reference (as registered with My Gallery)
          • unique reference (e.g. painting ID)
        • Response
          • HTTP response code indicates success or the type of error
    • This URL is specified in each game's context or webapp configuration, via JNDI
  • 19. Lessons learned
    • Know what scenarios you need to support
    • Communicate with all implementors
    • Find out constraints
    • Parameterise
      • for configuration and for flexibility
      • Don't assume there will only ever be one instance
    • Test, Test, TEST!
      • make sure you can!