The patterns we use to design for kids have crept into our designs for adults. To increase satisfaction, enjoyment, and delight in adult-focused design, what can we learn from designing for kids?
At the O’Reilly Media webinar held last Tuesday, Deb Gelman, author of the newly published Design for Kids book, shared her tips and insights on what designing for kids can teach us about user experience.
When we design for adults, the goal of user experience is to get out of the way so adults can get from point A to point B. Deb used Google Maps as an example of an adult-focused design. It allows you to get to your destination as quickly as possible, and stays out of your way. The interface is a means to an end.
However, when we design for kids, the interface is the goal. Kids are more interested in the journey than the destination.
Five Principles of Designing for Kids
- Friction. Kids love conflict, trying to solve something. And the same is true for adults. For interfaces, a little bit of friction makes the action more rewarding, and the result more satisfying. Example from kid-designed world: Toca House. Example from adult-designed world: Rise (alarm clock app).
Use friction effectively for adults in information-seeking, compiling or collecting items for a list, and commerce applications. Avoid adding friction when creating banking or financial service designs; the interface needs to be straightforward, quick, and error-free.
- Response. It’s important to make sure everything you create responds to a kid’s interaction. Typically for adults, we err on the side of transparency. Real-time response can be useful in adult designs.
Example from kid-designed world: Where’s My Water. Example from adult-designed world: okcupid. When adding fields to the initial form, it responds in a friendly and responsive way. Providing a small amount of creative feedback can go a long way.
To use response effectively for adult design, focus on form completion (short forms), repetitive tasks, and uploading/downloading. Avoid adding response for spreadsheets.
- Investment. If kids are going to spend time on your site or your application, they expect to receive some type of reward -> lagniappes.
Example from kid-designed world: Talking Carl. It repeats back whatever you say to you. The app will respond with a little surprise. Example from adult-designed world: Google Doodle. Many of the doodles are active games built into the interface; a great example of how little surprises work to celebrate investment. Rewards shouldn’t get in the way of the tasks people are trying to complete, but should support those tasks.
Examples of using investment effectively in interface design are social media, communication (example: MailChimp), and routine enterprise tasks (expense reports, timesheets, etc.). If you’re designing for medical, don’t get too involved with an investment model.
- Action. If it’s not moving, kids won’t use it. When designing for kids, you want to draw them into the interface. However, an adult gets annoyed when things start moving without purpose.
Use action effectively for for first-time use of an app or website (visual indicators), on-screen or contextual help, and browsing/discovery. Avoid using action when people are doing routine tasks; you don’t want to slow people down.
- Flow. Kids like to have freedom, but don’t want to feel out-of-control in an interface. Allow kids to progress in an experience. Three components to flow: choice, progression, and achievement.
Example from kid-designed world: Sofia the First. Gives kids choice in each step, and allows kids to create a movie they can save. Example from adult-designed world: Biblion Frankenstein (created by New York Public Library). It’s non-linear, but gives users choices to progress.
Interfaces that lend themselves well to flow include: tracking (Weight Watchers app), creation/curation applications (that allows you to customize), and search (the scent of information). You don’t want to impose flow in a communication interface.
There’s a difference in what we design for adults and kids, but we can look carefully at the patterns we use in kids design to make adults experiences more engaging and satisfying.