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Every new product – be it physical or digital – starts with an idea. This idea usually comes from a relatively small group of people. A product team usually has the best intentions and ideally a good feeling for their target market. Yet, during the design process a lot of decisions need to be made to insure the product meets the needs, abilities and expectations of the actual users. This can cause insecurities and doubts.
Involving children early in the design process, resolves these doubts. Feedback and insights from the actual user provide confidence for making informed design decisions.
CareToSave is a driven startup with a great idea: Bobo – a polar bear that is on a mission to protect his natural habitat by helping humans save energy.
Bobo is connected device that teaches families – and especially kids – about there electricity usage. It is a glowing polar bear that changes color depending on your electricity consumption.
Bobo comes with a story to teach kids about the link between energy consumption and global warm- ing. The Bobo app takes the concept even further, giving children a long-term understanding of their energy consumption. Kids get rewarded for energy saving through games and other enhancements within the app.
CareToSave has developed this concept with three main goals: (1) teach kids about ‘energy’, (2) make them aware of the consequences that come with energy waste and (2) encourage them to save energy.
Validating the concept
A product idea or concept is only as good as the actual target group says it is. When designing for children, they should be in the jury.
CareToSave realized that their idea was good – but their concept needed validation. There were too many questions that could only be answered by the actual target age group – kids between five and ten years of age.
Since CareToSave doesn’t have the expertise to conduct UX research with kids, they reached out to UXkids for professional advice.
Andriy Shmyhekskyy, Founder at CareToSave explains: “We could not have done the research ourselves – not with the same quality and in-depth insights. It is our product and we wanted the kids so badly to confirm our ideas. UXkids on the other hand had the necessary distance to obtain objective and valid results. Now, we actually know what does and doesn’t work.”
The starting point of the collaboration was a long list of keywords and questions that needed validation and clarification. Together, UXkids and CareToSave set priorities and defined the following research questions:
The storyline & characters
- Is the storyline clear and exciting enough for kids age 7 – 10?
- How do kids age 7 – 10 like the characters in the story?
- Can kids age 7 – 10 identify with the characters in the story?
- Is the link between the storyline and the product clear?
- Does the product appeal to kids age 7 – 10?
- What should be the functionality of the product?
- How do kids age 7 – 10 see the role of the product?
- Do kids want an app to go with the product?
- What ideas do kids have regarding the app?
In this stage during the project – and for the questions at hand – focus groups are the ideal UX research method for validating the concept.
UXkids conducted focus groups with 10 children age 7 – 10. The children were split up into groups separating boys and girls.
The following key findings were (1) reported by the children, (2) observed by UXkids, or (3) resulted from further analysis of the results by UXkids. Results either confirmed the initial concept, or offer input for further refinement of the same.
The storyline & characters
1. Confirmation of concept
- The storyline works for kids age 7 – 10. The kids listened carefully and were absorbed in the story. Kids appreciate a story that’s both exciting and funny. Kids recognized themes from their own lives (annoying sister, worried mother, etc.)
- There should only be one hero. The story doesn’t need an extra hero or anti-hero.
- ‘Bobo de ijsbeer’ is a good hero figure. A polar bear is a good character for teaching kids about energy. Kids were positive about the name and thought it was a suitable name for a polar bear.
- Kids like to read classical books. A story is a good way to explain global warming and why it’s important to save energy.
2. Refinement of concept
- There is a gender difference. Girls get more emotionally attached to characters than boys. Boys want more action than girls.
- There is an age difference. Younger kids (8 years and under) have difficulty grasping the concept of global warming. For kids 9 years and older, the story needs to be very sound and realistic. Older kids pay a lot of attention to detail.
- Bobo doesn’t have to be ‘cool’. Kids liked Bobo, because he was funny and cute, not ‘cool’ as expected.
- Kids don’t identify with the characters. The story did not build up a lot of emotional attachment to the characters.
1. Confirmation of product
- Light is a good indicator. Kids like that Bobo is a lamp. Changing of color works as an indicator for change in energy consumption.
- A soft feeling of the bear is important. Even though the bear could feel softer, all kids liked the feeling of the bear in their hands.
- Immediate energy consumption indication is important. The direct indication of energy consumption makes abstract concept of energy tangible.
- Indicator for energy waste is effective. Kids have difficulties with saving energy because they often forget.
2. Refinement of product
- There is a age difference. Younger kids (8 and under) see Bobo as a pet or friend to take care of. Older kids (9 and older) see the product as a ‘helper’ or indicator that reminds them to save energy.
- The product does not resemble Bobo from the storyline. The product looks more like an adult, male bear. Even though kids preferred a better resemblance with more details, they liked the look & feel of the product.
- The game mode if confusing. Kids did not understand the purpose of the game mode (random change of colors as response to movement) and tried to link the colors to energy consumption.
- Older kids pay more attention to detail. Especially the boys (9 and older) want to know how the product works, how to turn it off, etc.
Kids like the idea to track their energy savings on the iPad over time. Tablets were associated with playing games and kids liked the idea of a ‘Bobo app’. While this was not the focus of the research, kids had some good ideas of how to gamify the concept of energy saving. For example, they suggested that saving energy in real life could (1) enhance Bobo in the game, or (2) earn them ice cubes as credits.
“We learned a lot from the collaboration with UXkids. While some results confirmed our ideas, we also gained a lot of new insights. Now we know what our target age group likes and doesn’t like about our concept. This gives us the necessary confidence for taking our product to the next level.”
In a nutshel
￼“We learned a lot from the collaboration with UXkids. While some results confirmed our ideas, we also gained a lot of new insights. Now we know what our target age group likes and doesn’t like about our concept. This gives us the necessary confidence for taking our product to the next level.” (Andriy Shmyhekskyy, Founder at CareToSave)
CareToSave approached UXkids with a great product idea and an even greater list of unanswered questions regarding that idea. During three focus groups, UXkids put ten children between 7 and 10 years of age in charge – letting them validate the product idea.
The results showed that kids loved the concept – a huge confirmation for CareToSave. At the same time, findings confirm that some aspects need to be refined in order to meet the needs, abilities and expectations of the target age group.