Understanding children’s gaming behaviours and needs for CBBC

User Experience & Usability

The challenge

The CBBC website has been around for over 15 years and offers a variety of entertainment for children, including over 70 games that can be played online via mobile, tablet or desktop. These range from ‘quick play’ to longer bespoke games and include both branded and unbranded experiences with a breadth of different characters.

In line with the BBC’s ongoing efforts to improve their services for users, the games team wanted to inform the future strategy and evolution of their CBBC games portfolio. They commissioned System Concepts to conduct research with 6- to 10-year-olds, to explore the following objectives:

  1. Understand children’s digital behaviours, including how web-based games fit into their lives
  2. Understand children’s perceptions of, and opportunities for the CBBC games portfolio

What we did

To reflect the diverse audience of CBBC, we recruited 24 children from across the UK with a mix of age, gender, ethnicity, and frequency with which they played web-based games. Conducting remote research with children meant that we had to think carefully about our methodology, coming up with effective ways to build a rapport and keep them engaged across several topic areas. This resulted in us taking a two-stage approach to the research:

Stage 1: Online ethnographic activities

  • With support from parents, we onboarded participants to an online research platform, where they were greeted by a friendly welcome video from our researcher explaining why we needed their help.
  • Over five days, we released five short missions for each child to complete to give us an insight into their digital lives and gaming preferences. To keep it fun, we mixed up the activity types, capturing responses via photos, videos, questionnaires, heatmaps and (very impressive) drawings!
  • Our researcher carefully moderated participant’s posts with likes and comments, thereby getting to know, and building a relaxed connection with each child ahead of the interviews.

The dashboard from the online research platform with six different areas: Welcome & Instructions. Mission 1: About me. Mission 2: Your favourite games. Mission 3: Cool or uncool? Mission 4: Games review. Mission 5: Design a game

Stage 2: Friendship pair interviews

  • We spoke to children in friendship pairs, which encouraged confidence and openness (after some initial hiding behind cushions), whilst allowing us to understand if and how they influenced each other’s gaming behaviours.
  • The opportunity to choose and play a few games on the CBBC website added excitement between our questioning, whilst allowing us to capture children’s natural interactions and reactions to content.

A close-up of a Danger Mouse game being played on a tablet


Whilst children’s love for CBBC games was clear from the research, our multi-faceted approach provided us with a wealth of data that we were able to pull together into robust insights.

Our final report provided a window into the digital lives of 6- to 10-year-olds and outlined clear opportunities and risks for the future of the CBBC website. We also delivered engaging visuals including: a heatmap where participants had pinned games that looked cool and uncool; hand drawn designs for new game ideas; and video highlight reels for key areas of interest. This allowed stakeholders to immerse themselves in the minds of children, without having to take time out of their busy schedules to observe 12 hours of sessions!

Speech bubbleIf you’d like help running research sessions with children, please get in touch. You can never predict what they’re going to do or say!

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