April 15-18, 2009
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Doing It for the Kids: Tate Online on Engaging, Entertaining and (Stealthily) Educating Six to 12-Year-Olds

Sharna Jackson, and Robert Adamson, Tate, United Kingdom


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.

Keywords: Tate, children, community, art, user-generated content, Web 2.0

Tate Kids – The Context

Prior to the relaunch of Tate Kids in July 2008, Tate Online was receiving at least a million hits a month, but relatively few of these visitors were children – in fact stats from Hitwise suggested that Tate Online was attracting a predominantly older, retired audience.

Tate Online sits within Tate Media, a division that also includes Marketing, Communications, Press and Print teams. In January 2007, Will Gompertz, Director of Tate Media, presented a new vision for the division to the Board of Trustees, and it was met with enthusiasm. The proposal included a re-imagining of Tate Online, where audience-focused editorial roles, initially around kids, young people, adult learners, exhibitions and the collection, would be created and led by an over-arching Editor. The Tate Kids Editor post was created soon after and the post filed in September 2007.

Tate runs in-gallery programmes at all four sites (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, Tate St. Ives) for children. In a formal educational context, children attend school visits, directed by their teachers with support from Tate, or by an Artist Educator. Informally, the cross-site Families programmes run a range of extensive workshops and events for children - and their parents - at weekends and during school holidays.

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Fig 1: The previous incarnation of the Tate Kids homepage

Tate Kids existed before July 2008, as a small incoherent collection of games. It was housed within the Tate Learning pages, and the URL included the word ‘learning’, which can be immediately off-putting for some sections of the key intended audience. The HTML design was not created with children in mind; instead, it was inherited from Tate Learning, making the Web site an undesirable place for the audience and an unspecific, confused place for the content. The Web site was receiving around 580 unique visitors per day, who were spending an average of a minute and half.

It was hoped that the redesigned Web site would meet Tate’s mission ‘to increase public knowledge, understanding and appreciation of art’ by the creation of a colorful, relevant interactive Web site with engaging content that would both entertain and educate the intended audience of six to 12 year olds.

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Fig 2: A wire frame from the proposed new homepage

Children and the Internet

Tate held two small mixed-gendered focus groups with six to nine-year-olds and 10 to 12-year-olds to get some insight into how and where the Internet is used by Tate Kids’ intended audience, and what content they were engaging with.

The results were generally as presumed – all attendees used computers in both home and school. Computer usage in school tended to be off line or directed at specific educational Web sites. The children tended to spend most of their on-line time at home. The focus groups also demonstrated that the needs and expectations of children aged between six and 12 varied at the different ends of the spectrum.

In terms of content, Club Penguin (, the virtual world where children can chat, play mini-games and explore the world using animated penguins as avatars, was cited as the favorite Web site by both older and younger children.

CBBC ( and CBeebies ( were listed as the most popular sites for the younger age group, whilst the MSN Messenger software, MySpace (, Bebo ( YouTube ( Facebook ( and Miniclip ( mentioned by the older age group.

Although the 10-to-12 year olds were officially too young to access the social networking sites (which tend to have a lower age limit of 14), they still did, demonstrating that these users, in addition to looking at art and making their own art on-line, would expect a certain level of interaction with friends and other users. The key issues this raised were those of safety and moderation. On line safety is a key concern of both the target audience, and of their gatekeepers. This logically meant that it was imperative that any social elements or user-generated content had to be pre-moderated.

Tate Kids already hosted two instances of user-generated content. Tate Tales and My Imaginary City allow children to submit stories and images, which have to be checked for harmful content before going live. Tate felt that pre-moderation, whist potentially frustrating for older children (who wanted to see their content posted immediately) was the most adequate solution.

Tate therefore decided to start with a few, light, characteristics of Web 2.0 (so chat or messaging functionality would be avoided). However this would be reviewed and discussed at a later date, if there was a demand for it. It was also important to consider the amount of time the moderation process would add to the Tate Kids Editor’s workload. It was therefore imperative to make admin screens user-friendly and intuitive to ensure the moderation process was easy and smooth as possible – making the best use of time and meeting the needs of the audience quickly.

The Design Process

Tate had to consider the following challenges when creating the brief for the HTML templates and the Tate Kids logo. The Web site had to:

  • appeal to its diverse primary audience in terms of age and gender
  • be relevant and appeal to the primary audience’s gatekeepers
  • understand and complement the Tate brand, whilst looking and feeling unique
  • work within our stringent design specification
  • come in on budget

A short project brief was compiled detailing the background of the project, the requirements, and the available budget. It was then circulated to a number of agencies. If interested, they were sent further information and content including the suite of Tate fonts, brand guidelines and a wire frame of the proposed homepage. In return, Tate requested two Tate Kids logos, a mock-up of the Tate Kids homepage and details of relevant past projects.

When selecting agencies, Tate and /or the Tate Kids Editor had worked with them in the past, had seen promising examples of their work on-line or, had been recommended to Tate.

A number of issues arose. The agencies the Tate Kids Editor had worked with previously within the commercial sector were used to working in a different manner, and resented the fact that they had to submit an official pitch. Another agency felt that there were too many interested parties so pulled out. A number of agencies were unable to provide Tate with the example work requested as they were unable to undertake a ‘creative pitch’ – they were unwilling to provide examples of work for free. Tate fully sympathized with the agencies bound by those rules, as pitching can be an expensive yet fruitless endeavor, especially for small agencies. However, it made it very difficult to imagine a graphics-heavy Web site through verbal descriptions alone. Other agencies found the budget too small, and immediately dismissed the proposal.

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Fig 3: Article from New Media Age discussing the then forthcoming Web site (13 December 2007).

After Tate had received all submissions, two agencies were invited to Tate to meet the Tate Kids Editor and the e-learning Curator. From the meeting it was immediately clear that we would be working with GR/DD (, who had fully considered all of the challenges laid out in the brief.

GR/DD had provided three design options as part of their pitch. These were user tested in informal contexts - children in the gallery and friends and family in the target age range were canvassed. This research also asked the audience to consider the name ‘Tate Kids’. The Tate Kids Editor felt there was a potential issue with ‘Kids’ as it could be alienating to some of the target audience (especially those aged 10 and over) who may not want to be ‘bunched in’ with younger, immature children or be referred to by that term. Conversely, Tate Kids worked, as it was a clear, self-explanatory name. The concern was that something different might have been too ambiguous.

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Fig 4: Concept A

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Fig 5: Concept B

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Fig 6: Concept C

The research suggested that there were merits to each design, but Concept A was strongly liked by all, with some elements of Concept C incorporated – the photo frames, for example. Tate was wary of including characters (Concept C) and real children (Concept B) – if they didn’t appeal to the audience, this could dissuade them from using the Web site, immediately pre-judging the content. Tate also found that Tate Kids was a satisfactory name for the Web site, which was a relief.

Once the concept was amended and signed off, the Tate Kids Editor sent over a complete set of wire frames to GR/DD. Customization was a crucial aspect of the Web site, so functionality was developed to allow the users to choose their own backgrounds from a range on the homepage. GR/DD mocked up laminated, A3 versions of a range of potential backgrounds in addition to the landing pages for the main content areas. These were user tested, again at Tate Britain, and were responded to positively. As most of the background designs (with the exception of one monochromatic design) were liked by different sections of the target audience, Tate decided to use five of them in the Change the Background pallet that is live on the homepage. The original concept involved using out-of-copyright works, but as the backgrounds tested well, they were developed further, incorporating Flash elements. The pallet had room for six backgrounds - the last space was to be filled by a winner of a Design a Background competition to be held post-launch. It was hoped that the competition would aid with press, PR and marketing initiatives for the Web site.

After working closely with Tate Online’s Technical Manager to develop Tate Kids specific Design Specifications, GR/DD began coding the flat designs.

Creating Content

Tate Kids currently has seven key content areas, and three supporting areas:



My Gallery

The My Gallery application allows children to upload their own work, alongside the Tate Kids Collection (TKC) – a subset of about 500 works from the Tate collection, selected for children, with child-friendly tags. The application was developed internally; children can add works from the TKC to their galleries, alongside works created in the Tate Paint and Street Art games. Simple social networking features are present; namely, the ability to add other users as ‘favorite artists’ (alongside favorite artists from the TKC), to add works uploaded by other users to their gallery, to apply star ratings to works, and to send works by e-mail. Users with particularly interesting galleries can be rewarded with the Gallery of the Month accolade.

All of this was to be implemented with a child-friendly, accessible interface.

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Fig 7: My Gallery Artists of the Month page


The initial brief incorporated a set of wire frames, giving a clear indication of how the application was expected to work. As the project progressed, these wire frames were refined, and templates were built for each view. Prototyping and user testing provided feedback about the design and navigation, guiding the refinement process.

At this stage, My Gallery was entitled Tate Curate, but when the application was user tested, it was evident that users did not know what the name meant or, therefore, how it would work.

Undertaking user testing with children highlighted some usability problems but also showed that the children already had some clear expectations of how the application would work.

Development was undertaken largely in parallel with the design refinement, with a tight feedback loop between the Tate Kids Editor, the developer and the internal Web designer allocated to the project. This let changes be reviewed and actioned quickly.

Underpinning this was the use of a revision control system (Subversion) which ensured old versions could always be retrieved, and a build tool (Maven) which allowed for a near-immediate consistent build of the project – facilitating immediate testing. In addition, a suite of internal tests was developed and run as part of the build process.

An issue tracking system (JIRA) was used to track bugs and enhancement requests.


In common with the rest of the site, GR/DD produced the graphic design, implementing the views from the initial brief as a set of templates. Due to the audience, the design was graphic-intensive, presenting challenges with the presentation of arbitrary amounts of information such as varying lengths of text and varying quantities of images. Refinements to the templates were made internally by the developer as needed to support changes to the application. These changes were made using either existing design elements (where appropriate) or ‘plain’ elements (boxes, bullet points etc.). The role of the Web designer then became to ‘design up’ the changes made by the developer.

All text had to be suitable for children, and the Tate Kids Editor managed this task. The templates could be edited directly. Application-generated messages were externalized to a ‘properties’ file, again allowing for straightforward editing.


A range of technology choices was available.

The implementation technology had to:

  1. be compatible with the deployment environment
  2. enable an efficient architecture (i.e. to allow changes to be made efficiently and reliably)
  3. be familiar to the developer
  4. present no obstacles to others on the team

The application itself was bespoke – allowing precise control over the design, navigation and workflow – but took advantage of existing open-source libraries, to allow the work to focus on the specific requirements not the general plumbing.

The choice of language: Java and PHP are in existing use and were known to be compatible. Java is the primary area of expertise of the developer, along with the libraries.


  • Hibernate – to handle access to the underlying database, creating/validating the database structure from a declared model, independent of the actual DBMS used. (In this case, MySQL was used, with the InnoDB table engine to support database transactions.) Automatic persistence allowed programming to be done conveniently using Java objects, with Hibernate taking care of all the SQL behind the scenes. Hibernate sessions are wrapped around the processing of each Web request, to allow an as-needed database query approach.
  • Spring – used to ‘wire up’ and configure the various components of the application – and for its transaction and ORM support.
  • RSF – a Spring-based MVC (Model-View-Controller) Web application framework with its own template system that allows templates to be provided in pure XHTML, using one additional XML attribute to peer tags from the template with ‘components’ in the view-model. These components bind the tags to the application model, via bean properties and action methods. This templating feature was particularly effective at providing a development process whereby a Web designer could work on templates without any concern for the application code.
  • In addition, code from the Apache Commons project was used.

Integration of Tate Kids Games

Two new Tate Kids Games – Street Art and Tate Paint - result in work being produced, stored and published on the Web site.

Part of the brief was to allow works from these games to be saved into a user’s on-line gallery. Whilst this function would require the user to have a My Gallery account, there was also a requirement not to force users to sign up just to play the games.

Ongoing production of new games is planned.

This integration became a major part of the development. The main specific requirements were:

  1. sending a work to a user’s gallery
  2. presenting works in the user’s gallery
  3. only showing approved works

As each game is a separate development, all have their own data storage requirements, and hence their own server-side code and databases. As such, it was important to maintain strict discipline of implementation-independence, via a defined interface. XML and HTTP were chosen as the basis of the protocol, as this allows existing tools to be used for marshalling data, and provides flexibility in hosting the participating games – all that is needed is the ability to communicate securely via HTTP.

My Gallery exposes a Web service and a configuration screen for participating games to be configured. Each game is given a unique reference by the administrator, and provides its own Web service to support its end of the integration protocol.

At the My Gallery end, one URL is provided for a game to place a reference to one of its works in a user’s gallery. (This requires the user’s username and password, the game’s registration reference and a unique reference for the work itself.)

At the game’s end, the Web service allows access to the work data and to a public presentation of the work, via URLs with the work reference included. These URLs are specified in the game’s entry in My Gallery’s configuration. A placeholder is used in the URL, which is substituted for the work reference on-the-fly.

The work data includes a set of URLs for images of different sizes, which My Gallery uses to present the work in different contexts, and metadata – for selection and presentation. Non-approved works are not shown unless they belong to the user currently logged in – and even then, the external application will typically forbid access to the image (it does not have access to the My Gallery login session) – in which case a placeholder is used, with an explanatory note.

To date, My Gallery has around 1750 subscribed users, with around 10% of them defined as active: logging during the last 30 days. There are plans to allow users to comment on other users’ works, and these messages will be pre-moderated like the other instances of user-generated content on Tate Kids.


The original budget did not allow Tate Kids to create new games, but due to unspent allocated budgets and yet-to-be-filled posts remaining empty, additional funds were found to create two new games that were compatible with My Gallery.

Tate Paint

Tate Paint ( is an animated drawing tool with three brush sizes and 10 colors. When two or more colors are applied in layers, the resulting color is an accurate mix of the hues.

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Fig 8: Tate Kids Tate Paint game with Isle of Wight Festival branding.

Users are also able to see a step-by-step animated version of their masterpiece as it develops, add a frame, and hang it in the gallery when they have finished. They also have the option of sending the work to a friend.

Tate Online is sponsored by BT, who was also involved with the sponsorship of the 2008 Isle of Wight Festival, along with the Woodland Trust. To help with the promotion of Tate Kids, an Isle of Wight Festival version of the game was created, where users were asked to create a nature scene in the application. In keeping with the other content on the Web site, there were three age categories – five to seven, eight to nine and 10 to 12.The competition ran for a very short time – three weeks, with minimal publicity – so we were pleased to receive over 160 entries, which demonstrated both great effort and ability by the participants. A slideshow featuring all finalists was broadcast on large screens throughout the duration of the three-day Festival.

Tate Paint has received just under 40,000 unique views since its launch on the Beta version of Tate Kids in April. It receives around 5,550 unique views a month, with users spending around 3 minutes 40 seconds with the interactivity.

Street Art

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Fig 9: Example of work created in Tate Kids Street Art game

The Street Art ( interactivity launched in conjunction with the exhibition at Tate Modern ( in May 2008. It is essentially a re-skin or re-imagining of the Tate Paint application with some context setting from the outset to explain what Street Art is and who the major artists are today. This copy was created to demonstrate to some sections of the audience, especially to the gatekeepers, that Street Art does not equal vandalism and is a valid form of art.

Since its launch, it has proved to be the most popular section on Tate Kids. This is due to the extra marketing push that opening with an exhibition gave it, the link to the game on the exhibition micro site, the game’s cross-generational appeal, and its irreverent design and concept. To aid internal buy-in of the game, and Tate Kids, an eclectic mix of unsigned bands and musicians at Tate provided the soundtrack.

Since May, Street Art has received over 80,000 unique views, around 14,000 unique views a month, with users spending around four minutes 30 seconds on the game.

Street Art’s success will hopefully be mirrored in new content produced on the Web site, as it aptly embodies the Tate Kids ethos and spirit – it is humorous, irreverent, anarchic, educational and non-patronizing.

Existing games

Tate Tales ( was one of the original examples of user-generated content on the Web site. Using a re-skinned WordPress blog, users are invited to respond to and interpret four art works by writing short stories about each piece. The artworks are usually updated with the exhibitions to enhance cross-promotional activity and make the content relevant to the audience, especially teachers using Tate Tales after a visit to one of the galleries.

The wide age range of the Web site makes moderating the content often difficult, as a lightly violent story a 10-year-old might cathartically produce will certainly be too strong for a five-year-old. Each entry must be considered individually, and on its own merits.

Despite its age and poor graphic design, My Imaginary City ( is a very popular game on Tate Kids, second only to Street Art. Again, this game is very popular with teachers who find the interface easy to use. There were plans to adapt the game to allow content created within it to be saved to My Gallery, but an unreliable contractor who created the Flash files a few years earlier meant this was impossible to do. The key lessons learned from My Imaginary City is the importance of receiving and retain Flash files from contractors/agencies, so updates can be made relatively smoothly (that is, if the new developer can read the existing code!).

Changes have yet to be made to Memento Mori (, but there are plans to review and reduce the amount of text throughout.


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Fig 10: Orthus, the main character from the Art Sparks films

Tate Kids produced five four-to-five minute films to sit in the Films section of the Web site (that launched in November 2008) in conjunction with the BAFTA-nominated Brothers McLeod ( - a real coup for Tate Kids, considering the small budget. The Brothers McLeod, represented by Aardman (of Wallace and Grommit fame), have also created Pedro and Frankensheep for CBBC, amongst other award-winning projects.

The innovative Art Sparks films for Tate are a mix of live action and animation, focusing on one work from the Tate Collection per episode. The two-headed main character Orthus acts as a guide to the art work, with the two sides of his personality having heated debates about the pieces, one head approving, the other head unsure. Once he agrees with himself, the viewer sees real children working on their own pieces of work inspired by work in the Tate Collection.

The films are currently being released at the rate of one per month, and Tate is waiting until all films are live before undertaking Press, PR and Marketing. The films currently receive around 400 unique visits a month each. There are plans to also add the films to YouTube.

Tate Create

Tate Create ( is the home of off-line crafts-based activities. It was originally entitled The Zoom Room, when it sat in the learning pages of Tate Online.

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Fig 11: Tate Create

The content was completely rewritten with an educational consultant to appeal to children directly, so, with minimal adult help, they could print the activities and get started. The Colouring Book ( was also created for the final launch in July. Consisting of a series of line drawings of Tate’s out of copyright works, it is aimed at younger or less-able children who should be able to use the activity without difficulty (once downloaded and printed).

Tate believed it was imperative to have off-line activities to encourage children to spend some time away from the computer to explore their creativity in a myriad of ways, and also allow teachers, who may struggle with technology through either lack of experience or inadequate equipment at their institutions, to get involved.


The e-cards system ( launched in late January 2009, and allows users of Tate Kids to send on-line postcards featuring works from the Tate Kids Collection to friends and family. The selection of cards can be changed and updated so seasonal sets can be created for relevant occasions. The e-cards are a good way to circulate the Tate Kids URL, and the delivered card features Orthus and links to the films section. This allows Tate Kids to cross-promote its own content.

Adult Zone

The Adult Zone ( allows Tate to directly appeal to gatekeepers. The star rating system is explained honestly here. Each game or activity on the Web site is given a one-, two- or three-star rating depending on the difficulty level of content: one star means it’s suitable for all, and three stars meaning it is most suitable for the over-10s.

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Fig 12: The Adult Zone

In the areas of the Web site aimed directly at the children, such as the games page, each star rating is described as a ‘Level’ to draw parallels with standard video games, rather than ability. Tate was keen not to include age ranges here, as it could be off-putting and alienating for older children to be using content aimed at younger children. Not only might they think it was ‘silly’, but if they were struggling with the game, they also might feel they were ‘under-achieving’.

For parents, Tate aims to alleviate any safety fears pertaining to the social network aspects present in My Gallery, and links to the privacy policy. For teachers, we supplied three sample lesson plans demonstrating how elements of the Web site can be used to create a lesson or scheme of work for each relevant UK Key Stage, demonstrating how Tate Kids could fulfill both Art and ICT curricula at KS1, KS2 and early KS3. Tate also explained what age ranges the Key Stages cover, so educators from outside of the UK and around the world could adapt the lesson plans as necessary. There are also links to the Schools and Teacher and Families sites from here.


Latest ( is the news page that informs our users of new content, and competition launches and results. While it is a useful way to broadcast, Tate plans to convert the format into a blog so users can comment, opening up dialogue and debate. This is most likely to be in the form of a re-skinned WordPress blog, like Tate Tales, and will need to be pre-moderated in the same way.

Supporting Content

The Tate Kids Safety Guide ( was created to alleviate safety fears for both users and gatekeepers. To make it appeal to the main audience, it was created as an ‘acrostic’ using TATE KIDS as a starting point. For example, the second T in Tate stands for ‘Tell no one your real name’. The format helps keep the points short and easy to remember. If users click the letters, they can find out more about each statement. In case the user does not have Flash installed, there is an HTML version. Links to the Safety Guide appear on the homepage, individual games pages, and the My Gallery sign up screen.

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Fig 13: The Tate Kids Online Safety Guide

Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Tate’s official Terms and Conditions ( and Privacy Policy ( were rewritten so children could understand what we were asking of them. Tate believed it was imperative to do this, as many sites aimed at kids overlook this, and the users are faced with incomprehensible legalese. To ensure the message was still appropriate, the content was checked and signed off by our in house lawyers.

Marketing and Extending the Brand

Retaining and growing our audience is a key objective for Tate Kids, and Tate found it prudent to allocate a proportion of annual budget (however small) for marketing, press and promotion. It was imperative to Tate, due to budget constraints, to think laterally about promotion, and use the positive connotations and popularity of the Tate brand to best use.

The Tate Kids marketing has being aimed at our three main audiences – the 6-to-12s, their teachers, and their parents.

Directly to the target audience

Whilst the majority of our communication is via the gatekeepers, we were keen for our audience to shout about Tate Kids in a safe way, if they wanted to. The ‘send to a friend’ functionality in the Tate Paint and Street Art games allowed some sections of the audience to become unofficial advocates, by their positive distribution of user-generated content. The 2008 advent calendar and e-cards also work in this way, and Tate ensures that links back to Tate Kids are included in the communication. In My Gallery, the accolade of Gallery of the Month tends to immediately create advocates.

Although competitions technically go through gatekeepers, they are an active way for the key audience to engage with Tate Kids and the brand. Tate Kids has run two competitions since launch. The first asked participants to use Tate Paint to create an environmental image for the Isle of Wight Festival. The second, Design the Background, involved children creating a piece of art inspired by the future – whatever that meant to them. The winning work was then converted into an HTML and Flash-based work and became one of the six backgrounds users can choose on the homepage. The competition was heightened by the prize of an iPod nano. Competitions like this are important to Tate Kids, as they further the idea of the site as a collaborative space, where the users can have an effect on the content of Tate Kids, and their opinions heard and acted on as and when necessary.

Through the gatekeepers

A crucial finding of the user testing conducted in Tate Britain illustrated that visitors with families were unaware of the Web site (in its previous incarnation) but were keen to use it once they knew it existed and learned how to access it. Therefore engaging with visitors with families was a key concern, and a number of additional avenues were explored to promote the Web site to parents and teachers.

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Fig 14: Tate Kids magnetic photo frames

To promote the launch, Tate Kids branded magnetic photo frames were produced, in addition to flyers. These were used because of their increased permanency over throwaway material sand their ability to be customized, mirroring the user-generated elements of the Web site. Crucially, they were around the same cost as flyers to produce. Each gallery was given a number of photo frames to be distributed at Families events and to school groups visiting the gallery. The Tate Kids Editor also uses them to supplement competition prizes.

In terms of other off-line promotion, Tate Kids has been advertised in the Guide, Tate’s bi-monthly brochure detailing exhibitions and events at all four galleries. The Tate Kids logo and URL is slowly being added to the portfolio of take-home printed materials used at Families events and in-gallery games, and in conjunction with Marketing, Families, and Tate Catering, Tate Kids will redesign the activity placement given to children who use the refreshment facilities at all four sites.

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Fig. 15: Tate Kids cards

Together with Tate Enterprises, the commercial arm of Tate that encompasses publishing, catering and retail activities, Tate Kids cards were created. Artists who work closely with Tate created the images, and the Tate Kids logo and URL were added to the front and reverse of the cards. At the moment, three cards are available, but there are plans to extend the range.

Tate Kids is cross-promoted on other relevant Tate Online micro sites, including Families ( and Schools and Teachers (, and is regularly mentioned in e-bulletins sent out to subscribers of both of the sites. New content is also featured on the Tate Online homepage as it launches, normally for a week at a time.

Tate Kids commissioned an e-mail circular to 19,777 primary schools in the UK (addressed to named art coordinator contacts where possible) in September 2008, with a view to driving traffic to the site by introducing it to teachers and publicizing the Design a Background competition: 25.4% of the e-mails were opened the day they were sent, bringing 1,256 extra unique visitors to the Web site that month.

My Imaginary City is listed on Dress Up Games (, a highly popular Icelandic links Web site that brings Tate Kids around 8,000 visitors each month. To build upon this, Tate Kids is listed on a range of Web sites, including Show Me ( and Times Educational Supplement resources pages ( Tate Kids was also linked to via a popular Hollywood gossip site, Just Jared ( which blogged about actress Reece Witherspoon using the Web site. This brought an extra 180 visitors that day.

Forging Partnerships

Tate has found that creating relationships with external partners has aided awareness and promotion of Tate Kids. When deciding to work on a joint venture, Tate has found it is imperative for the brand values of both parties to align or complement each other, and the relationship must be mutually beneficial. If not, there is a danger of the work negatively subverting the expectations of both audiences, producing an undesirable experience.

Moshi Monsters and Tate Kids

Moshi Monsters ( is a growing virtual world with over one million subscribers, continuing to grow daily. The Web site attracts children aged between 9 and 11, with 77% of those users being female. They have a thriving community who are very keen on art and creating art, so a relationship between Tate and Moshi Monsters was beneficial to both parties.

The partnership began with mutual links – Tate Kids games and My Gallery were mentioned in their community blog every week during November and December 2008, and Tate explained the influx of Moshi works in our galleries to our users through our news pages. The partnership brought an average of 700 extra visitors per day during the period.

To further develop the partnership, Tate Kids will be working with Moshi Monsters to create a permanent presence in Monstro City, the hub of the virtual world. This should be available to users from Winter 2009.

Ignition and Tate Kids

Ignition ( is a three-year programme created to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects through creative approaches, designed to inspire the next generation of scientists, inventors and innovators. Working under the Sci-art fusions strand (, Tate Kids and Ignition will be working together to create a fun and inspiring interactive game concerned with conservation and restoration techniques and in sync with My Gallery.

Stardust and Tate Kids

Stardust ( is a small but prolific children’s clothing store whose apparel aligns with the Tate Kids brand. From November 2008 until stocks diminished, Stardust sent out a flyer with Tate Kids information and URL in each order dispatched from their warehouse.

Outcomes and the Future

Tate’s mission is ‘to increase public knowledge, understanding and appreciation of art.’ Tate believes that Tate Kids meets this remit by creating relevant, colourful, imaginative content that engages and entertains while educating the intended audience in both formal and informal contexts.

The redesigned Tate Kids launched in Beta in April 2008 and final in July 2008, and typically receives 32,000 unique visits per month - a marked increase from the average of 17,000 unique visitors Tate Kids was receiving during the final months of 2007. Since its initial launch, new content areas have been added, including the Films section and the Tate Kids e-cards.

Tate Kids has been warmly received by its intended audiences. The objectives for the future is to grow the Web site by 25% per year, with an aim of 70,000 visitors per month late in the financial year 2011-12.

Since the Web site is continuing to grow, there are plans to conduct another session of user testing to ensure the site is still meeting the needs of the key audiences.

Budget permitting, My Gallery functionality will be updated, and in addition the news page will become more interactive.

Following the addition of the URL and logo to greetings cards via Tate Enterprises, Tate Kids is going to investigate the possibility of expanding the brand to appear on merchandise in Tate shops both on- and off-line. Ideally, if and when merchandise is redeveloped or launched, Tate Kids would have the opportunity to share its brand and add the URL on the packaging and product, where applicable. This would significantly drive traffic to Tate Kids while helping to create a consistent and cohesive experience for children visiting and experiencing Tate.


Cardiff, R. (2007).Designing a Web Site for Young People: The Challenges of Appealing to a Diverse and Fickle Audience. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.) Museums and the Web 2007: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 1, 2007 at
Consulted 20 Jan 2009.

EdComs (2008). Tate Kids Web Usability Group: Qualitative Findings. Unpublished Report.

Tate (2007). Tate Kids Strategy 2007-2008. Unpublished,

Tate (2008). Tate Kids Strategy 2008-2009. Unpublished.

Cite as:

Jackson, S., Doing It for the Kids: Tate Online on Engaging, Entertaining and (Stealthily) Educating Six to 12-Year-Olds. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds). Museums and the Web 2009: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics. Published March 31, 2009. Consulted jackson/jackson.html