We do a lot of work with UX in our digital products; from Warrior Cats, exploring a complex fandom hub with lots of specialist content, to WWF, a learning app with an interactive AR experience. We test our processes a lot, see what works and what can be improved through wireframes, prototypes, and even the final product (although this is rare). We have our own specialist design principles for working with preschoolers (you can read more about that here), and have integrated the key fundamentals of child development into our knowledge foundation when designing kids products.
Here are a few things I like to remember when starting out in the UX journey which will hopefully help you and your next product.
1. Know your audience
It sounds so obvious, but it’s always worth really researching and knowing exactly who your product is for. Different ages and life experiences will shape how familiar they are with using your digital product. Finding out the habits and interests of your key target demographic can help craft your user journeys and highlight potential stress points. Identify your competitors and aspirational products and see what behaviours and patterns may already exist.
At KI we are very familiar with designing experiences for children, and knowing where they are in their development and curriculum is key to developing a product for them. For example, even the way a toddler physically interacts with and holds a device is different to an older child due to the development of their fine motor skills. We know that children are digital natives and as such expect certain products to work in familiar, certain ways and breaking those UX rules can lead to confusement or frustration.
2. Accessible Design vs Inclusive Design
I think it’s worth quickly discussing the difference between Accessible Design and Inclusive Design. Accessible Design very simply means that everyone should be able to use the product; when it is built, is it possible for everyone to use it fully? Inclusive Design is subtly different, as it takes the accessible product and asks: does everyone want to use this product? Does the product feel authentic and does the user feel comfortable using it?
“While Accessible Design cares only that everyone can hear your message, Inclusive Design asks you to consider your message itself.”
These two principles are so important to make sure your product works on both a technical level, and an emotional level.
3. It’s 2021 - your site must work on mobile
I mean the title says it all really! Of course what I really mean is that any digital product should be responsive, and that aspect needs to be thought about early in the design stages. More than 50% of website traffic comes from mobile devices and that statistic is only increasing each year. To not include this in the early stages of planning and designing is going to cause a lot of headaches later. Whilst there absolutely is a place for beautiful custom experiences for either desktop or mobile, remember what the ultimate purpose of the product is. A retailer client, for example, is always going to want to prioritise reaching as many people as possible on as many platforms, over a unique never-before-seen experience or design.
4. Test, test and test again
Even the best thought out plans don’t always work in practice, with unknown considerations or bugs popping up throughout the process. Sometimes a beautifully designed journey through a product is not what the user decides to do; sometimes they go rogue and totally break your carefully crafted journey. Which actually is pretty cool! Well, I mean if it’s discovered early enough; otherwise it can be (heartbreaking) a bit of an issue. It’s always good to keep testing throughout the process - this is where user journeys become important. They can be a great way to see if your prototype is robust enough to meet different user requirements and where the stress points are in a product.
5. It’s ok to go back to the drawing board
Sometimes even after all the user testing and prototyping, the product just doesn’t work how it needs to. Part of the journey of designing a product or experience is all about finding these stress points and working through the best solutions. But in the pre-production phase there is flexibility in the approach, and lots of concepts can be tested and explored before committing to one solid approach. So if it isn’t working, ask yourself critically ‘why’ - and if need be leave the concept behind.