Digital App Usability Design: We Can Learn a Lot Watching Kids

by Robin Zebroski | Vice President of Digital on January 28, 2013

in DigiKnow, Mobile, Social Media, Websites

As a mom, step-mom and aunt to a technologically savvy group of youngsters, I learn a lot by watching kids navigate, digitally. As I was thinking about digital app usability today for one of our clients, my boys’ perspective came to mind. Apple has mastered the use of simple icons and actionable clues in a way that allows kids to navigate without reading, while not insulting the intelligence of older generations.  We can follow this lead and avoid over-complicating.

A few perspectives that came to my mind today based on what we can learn from kids:

  1. Kids: “I can’t read, show me.”
    Keep it simple and to the point. Use directional clues that don’t require the user to try to figure out what they’re supposed to do. If you watch kids, they don’t pause and look around very much, they simply navigate without fear – clicking, swiping, flipping, and interacting with content. Watch what people do and make it easier for them, it really is as simple as that. Be careful not to listen to what people say they do, the result will be different from watching their behavior firsthand.
  2. Kids: “I like simple things.”
    Too many options overwhelm kids; I fit into this category, too. When I look through my favorite apps, it’s amazing how they perform a simple function rather than trying to be all things to all people. Less is more, be the very best at one thing.
  3. Kids: “I like to save my favorites.”
    Going beyond bookmarks on the laptop or organized folders of icons on the iPad, some of my current favorites help keep all of my content organized – apps like Flipboard® to manage my social feeds and Evernote® to manage notes/passwords across devices help organize my life.
  4. Kids: “I like to edit pictures.”
    Kids love to tinker. They edit photos on iPads®, their Nintendo® DS3s, or whatever’s in front of them. So do older generations. Some of the best photo/video social apps, like Instragram® and Vine®, provide very basic functionality and make it easy to share content with social networks.
  5. Kids: “I judge an album by its cover.”
    Kids love music and are quick to catch on to Pandora and Spotify. But, if you watch them, they make decisions based on cover images. Some current artists are in-tune with this and design their song cover images very carefully. Thumbnails matter and this applies to a whole lot more than music.

The bottom line: if you make things easier, you’re #winning.


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