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Little People, Big Challenges: UX with Kids. Presented at Midwest UX 2011 in Columbus, Ohio.
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Little People, Big Challenges: UX with Kids. Presented at Midwest UX 2011 in Columbus, Ohio.


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Conducting UX activities with school-age children is fun and interesting, though it can also be frustrating at times. If you are planning a project whose user group includes children, this is the …

Conducting UX activities with school-age children is fun and interesting, though it can also be frustrating at times. If you are planning a project whose user group includes children, this is the session for you. These aren’t just little people after all, they have a completely different range of emotional, physical and learning abilities than adults. In this brief session you’ll learn the characteristics of these kids and how they can affect your UX study.

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  • 1. Midwest UXApril 9, 2011
    Little People, Big Challenges: UX with Kids
  • 2. Imagination, Wonder, Fun!
  • 3. Little People…
  • 4. Not Short Adults
    Cognitive Skills
    Reality and make-believe
    New to computers
    Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? By Bill Martin Jr / Eric Carle
  • 5. Physical
    Little hands and unreliable grasp
    Computer operations (drag-and-drop)
    Short in stature
    Need for movement
  • 6. Experience & Emotions
    Interpretation of information, icons
    Fear, shyness
    Non-talkers or Chatty
  • 7. Recruitment
  • 8. Gain Trust
    Approach Organizations
    Rotary Club
    Parent-Teacher Groups
    Private Schools
    Home School Co-ops
  • 9. Mindful of Family Situations
    Caring Adults
    Religious, social
    Holidays, birthdays, politics
    Awareness of Media, Internet, TV
  • 10. Network
    Ask for recommendations
    Finder’s fee
    Participants knowing each other
    Enjoy experience with friends
    Can carpool
    Depends on test
    Patel and Paulsen
  • 11. Publicize
    Social networking
    Through your site
    Parent e-mailing lists and bulletin boards
    Volunteer sections
  • 12. Recruiting Issues
    Advanced computer users
    Making games, web pages, etc.
    Flexible testing hours
    Arrange care or space for siblings
    Younger distract
    Older want to help
    Sensitive to concerns about child’s abilities
  • 13. Protecting Kids
  • 14. Physical Considerations
    Child-sized chairs and tables
    Avoid distraction
    Lab equipment
    Effective yet unobtrusive
    Check for safety
  • 15. On Location
    Least interaction
    Best opportunity for comparison
    Most interaction and deepest understanding
    Most time consuming per subject
    Other situations (playgrounds, museums, etc.)
    Difficult to plan
    Hard to know who you’re observing
    Use most caution in this situation
  • 16. Guidance
    Never be alone with child
    No full names in any documentation
    No discipline unless they are in danger
    Photograph only with permission
    Casual dress
  • 17. Welcome Caring Adults
    Child’s Choice
    Benefits of Adult in Room
    Gives child sense of security
    Can help “adjust” child when needed
    May Need Guidance
    “Lead” child or pressure child to perform
    Engage facilitator in side conversation
  • 18. Caring Adult-Child Pairs
    Used to having support available
    Expect to be used with adult
    First time use
    Educational products
    Offline activities
    Relationship issues show up
    Coping skills vary – encourage to be supportive
  • 19. Consent
    Adult must sign any agreement
    Activity for child while waiting
    Designs "top-secret"
  • 20. Online Information Gathering
    COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule)
    Became effective on April 21, 2000.
    Operators Must:
    Post privacy policy;
    Obtain verifiable parental consent;
    Prohibit disclosure of information to third parties;
    Maintain confidentiality, security, and integrity of information.
    More at:
  • 21. Conducting Research
  • 22. In the Classroom
    Schedule carefully
    Levels of approval
    Make concessions
    Used to being observed
    Hectic - prepare for change
  • 23. In the Home
    Can be chaotic
    Distractions abound
    Go with the flow
    Pets (consider your allergies)
    Show their room
  • 24. Test Your Materials
    Child’s ability level
    Rotate tasks – more tired at end
    Prepare varying levels of hints
    Scary disembodied voice
    Speak softly
    Give warning before speaking
    Tiny voices, close mics
    Pressure zone microphones
    Hanna, Risden, and Alexander
  • 25. Control & Trust
    New experience for child
    Office and equipment
    Different than home
    Answer Questions
    About gear
    Go behind one-way mirrors
    Match experience
    Adjust to preference
    Slower cursor speed
  • 26. Set Expectations
    Caring adult
    Allow child to try things out and make guesses
    Help with hints if gets stuck
    To Child
    Use simple language
    We’ll have fun!
    Warm-up activity - get to know them
    Avoid suggesting
    Eager to please adults
  • 27. During Testing
    Keep it short
    Restate tasks as needed
    Encouragement and feedback
    "You really worked at that!"
    "You did that all on your own!"
    Reminders to pay attention
    Free exploration time
    Hanna, Risden, and Alexander
  • 28. Communicate Emotions
    Trying to “break” product
    Less verbally capable children
    Explain what you need to know
    Memory aids
    From left to right 'boring, 'don't understand', 'fun',
    'too difficult, 'too slow', 'childish', 'stupid/strange', 'too scary'.
    Barendregt and Bekker
  • 29. Post-Study
    Children are tired
    May be upset test is over
    Thank them!
    Comment on how helpful they were
    Hard work = see exactly what needs to be fixed
  • 30. Incentives
    Thank entire class and teacher
    Gift to class (pizza day, etc.) - optional
    Appropriate for age and economic class
    Bring extras for siblings
    Gift certificates
  • 31. Testing/Researching Children
    Create usable, satisfying products for children
    Be prepared for anything
    Unpredictable, challenging and fun!
  • 32. Carol Smith
  • 33. References
    Hanna, L., Risden, K., and Alexander, K. 1997. Guidelines for usability testing with children. interactions 4, 5 (Sep. 1997), 9-14. DOI=
    Barendregt, W., Bekker, M.M. 2005. Extended guidelines for usability (and fun) testing with children. SIGCHI.NL Conference 2005, HCI Close to You, 13 October Den Haag. Den Haag, NL
    Patel, M. and Paulsen, C. 2002. "Strategies for Recruiting Children for Usability Tests." Usability Professionals Association, 11th Annual Conference.
    Ames, Louise Bates, Ph.D., et. all. Your __ Year-Old, Series, Gesell Institute of Human Development.