“User-Centered Design (UCD) is a user interface design process that focuses on usability goals, user characteristics, environment, tasks, and workflow in the design of an interface. […] The UCD process is an iterative process, where design and evaluation steps are built in from the first stage of projects, through implementation.” (Shawn Lawton Henry and Mary Martinson, Accessibility in User-Centered Design)
With UCD you can build products that are relevant, easy to use, and fun for a defined group of users. Child-Centered Design (CCD) ensures those very same features – plus it helps you to develop age appropriate content.
By involving the actual user in the development process of a new product – or the redesign process of an existing product – you gain a lot of benefits, such as:
- Reduced development time
- Increased sales
- Usage savings
- Support savings
While not all of these benefits hold true if your target group is rather young of age, there is also a lot to gain from CCD:
Kids will love it. Apps that are fun are more engaging, more likely to be upgraded, and recommended to friends.
Teachers will love it. Apps that are easy to use are more effective and thus more valuable for educational purposes.
Parents will love it. Age-appropriate apps have a positive impact and offer a safe environment for learning and entertainment.
You will love it. Apps that meet your business goals keep all stakeholdes happy and most of all, they stay within your budget.
Implications of Child-Centered Design
CCD is a mindset, not rocket science
No worries, Child-Centered Design is not rocket science. Do you develop digital products for kids like computer games, e-books, or apps? And do you want these products to be fun and have a positive impact on kids’ development?
Here is how you can get a CCD mindset in only three steps:
1. Accept the value of Child-Centered Design
First of all, you need to accept the value and the importance of CCD. Only if you truly understand your target group and if you know the context of use, you can build great products.
Both as designers and developers we need to stop projecting our own perceptions of technology use on to children. It’s time to recognise the value of research methods that can be used to involve children in the design process.
And be assured: Children have an opinion. They know what they like, what’s fun, and what’s popular. All those things are important motivators that make your product truly successful.
2. Get familiar with your target age group
Next, it is important to accept kids as an own – and very diverse – target group. Kids are nothing like adults and that’s why we simply cannot assume we know what they want, how they experience media, or how their thought processes work – because we don’t know.
In order to design big experiences for kids, you must take the time to get to know your specific target group. What is it that gets them excited? What can they relate to? What keeps them engaged?
Adding some characters and colors just won’t be enough.
3. Get familiar with age appropriate research methods
Last but not least, you cannot use all common user research methods for kids – and neither can you use the same methods for all kids.
For every target age group, there are different research processes that are suitable and effective. Also, applying research methods with kids can be a challenge – even if you have experience using the same method with adults.
With every age group, you face different challenges. Between 0 and 12 years of age, children develop their personality, physical, cognitive, and social skills on multiple levels. Being familiar with the different stages of development and the abilities and limitations that come with them is critical for conducting successful user research with kids.