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“Explain It To Me Like You’re 5”, or What I Learned Doing User Research With Kids

Design & Front-end
Cara Tsang
Audience Experience Level

It’s no secret that children take to technology like adorable baby ducks to candy-coloured, amusingly-animated water. But it’s not all fun and games; even baby ducks must learn. When it comes to designing tools intended to educate and inform children, how do we make sure that our designs are usable and engaging enough for the young audiences they’re aimed at? 

One good place to start is by conducting user research, early and often. You may already have a tried and true method for research, but adult-focused methodologies don’t always translate directly to testing with kids (or with many other special populations, for that matter). How do you even get kids to participate in your research? How do you assess what a child’s motivations and attitudes are? How do you explain usability testing and placeholder content to a 3rd grader? 

As with all user research, working with children can reveal interesting feedback and helpful insights. It can be a bit more challenging than testing with adults, but the experience is no less rewarding, and often way more hilarious. This talk aims to offer some guidance to help you get the most out of your research sessions with kids, and may even spur some ideas that extrapolate to research with other special populations (e.g., people with cognitive limitations or people less familiar with technology). 

In this session, we’ll cover:

  • How to set yourself up for success when conducting user research with children
  • How to tweak your testing materials to make them more suitable for kids
  • Behaviours unique to younger users that may crop up
  • Pitfalls and scenarios to keep an eye out for
  • Tips on how to engage children and help them feel comfortable in your session

This talk is recommended for anyone with an interest in conducting user research with children, or with special populations of any kind. No prior experience in user research is necessary, although some familiarity with research techniques may help facilitate understanding.