5 Lessons I Learned At The IDC 2013 In NYC

This year I attended the Interaction Design and Children conference for the first time. Looking back at four truly inspiring days – packed with tons of information, new ideas, and interesting people – I find it hard to understand why I had not visited the conference before.

The IDC is an annual conference that “brings together researchers, designers and educators to explore new forms of technology, design and engaged learning among children”. Basically it’s the perfect place to be when looking for new partnerships and input for UXkids.

I met many like minded people and learned a lot. Here are the 5 most important lessons that I learned at the IDC 2013:

1. Child centered design is important

Sometimes, especially when talking to game developers and other industry folks, it is very difficult – if not impossible – to convince people of the importance of child centered design (CCD).

What does ‘child centered’ mean anyways?

At the IDC I felt not only understood, but also acknowledged and appreciated. People, who work in the field are privileged to see the impact children have on a design or product on a regular basis. They don’t need convincing. They don’t even need an explanation. They just know the importance of CCD.

My goal is to be an advocate for child centered design. I want to help the industry realize the many advantages that come from involving children in the design process – of any product that is targeted to them.

2. I’m not a lonely warrior after all

A times, I have felt a lonely warrior in my field. Sure, people think it’s interesting what I do. But does that mean it’s important?

Meeting with lots of like minded people from around the world made me realize I’m not as lonely as I thought. As a matter of fact none of us is.

Children are a are a special, vulnerable, and increasingly important target group and they do require special attention – no matter where you are in the world. The IDC brings together different people with different perspectives, and different focuses. But everyone is summoned by the same idea: Designing better technology for children.

3. IDC is a family of professionals

At one point, the IDC was described as a self-chosen family of professionals. A group of people, who come together to learn from each other, to share knowledge, to discuss ideas, and to feel connected.

That’s exactly what happened. The sphere was very personal and warm. People met, exchanged their projects and enjoyed connecting with one another. The richness of information and inspiration that hang in the air during the conference days was incredible.

Sharing is not only a very nice thing to do – it also empowers us to become better advocates for CCD.

4. The world is much smaller than we think

It doesn’t matter that we are spread out around the world, as a family we still need to stick together and elaborate on our work.

If there is no one close by to discuss new ideas with, it doesn’t mean we have to live like a hermit and rely on ourselves. The internet and all the pretty media that comes with it allows us to connect in real time with anyone, anywhere.

Staying in touch makes life alot easier and richer at the same time.

5. There is still a gap between academic research and the industry

While I face difficulties regularly fitting user research into the tight reality of a product development process, the academic world spends weeks – if not months – testing a single concept.

In general, this is a good thing and it provides the industry with lots of research to base their concepts on. At the same time, it makes research seem like it could only be done with huge efforts and an even bigger budget.

Research with children must not be something only conducted for academic purposes.

With UXkids, I help companies decide:

  • when in the product development process to conduct research,
  • what kind of research is most suitable, and
  • how the results lead to a revision of their concept.

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