UX: Should the Kids be in Control of the Smart House?

Defining the user experience is going to be a key theme for companies in the foreseeable future. With traditional items going “smart,” whether that’s watches (Apple’s Watch or Pebble), or even pens, (Equil or the Neo smartpen N2), makers of consumer products and apps are trying to figure out their best interfaces.

But should their research and development include a kid’s perspective? Our younger generations are growing up knowing only a digital life. PBS recently reported that more than 70% of parents today allow their young children to use devices like iPads. Companies everywhere are beginning to cater digital solutions to the young market. Even Apple has created a “Kids” App Store that caters to kids 13 and under. And Netflix has a “Just for Kids” section.

While having a separate kid-focused product is important, should companies also be thinking about how to leverage that perspective to guide the connected and digital world experience for adults as well? By leveraging the perspective of today’s techsavvy kids, companies have the potential to tap into new interfaces and ways to engage customers. In fact, there are pretty strong parallels between what keeps kids engaged and effective approaches to designing a UX.

1. Make it fun as often as possible.

This might as well be the most basic need for most kids. They crave entertainment...and as it turns out, so do adults! A perfect example is Mint.com. There is almost nothing less fun than money management, but by adding in goal trackers and visual breakdowns, Mint.com has been notorious for getting people to keep conning back to the platform. Taking this concept and applying it to the future of UX, we can expect to see interfaces that continuously check in with users or provide complementary features that aren’t necessarily the main attraction, but remind users of the application or device. For example, if the Fitbit could be linked to your music library, and make suggestions for which song to play based on your heart rate or even time of day.

2. Rely on repetition.

Many children games are centered on giving them an opportunity to practice things over and over. Take Simon or Bop It, both iconic children’s games that focus on repeating the same patterns. Even though it’s a simple concept, it works. For UX,this means making sure that your interface repeats the same designs or concepts on each page, so if a user is switching between functions, they are still seeing the same layout or theme. The more familiar they are with design, the more likely they will be focus on and engage with your actual product. This will become critical as companies leverage loT and expand to new products or services. For example, as the connected car becomes increasingly mainstream, application developers will need to think about the vehicle-friendly version of their app. Given the hands free nature of car apps, they will already be significantly different from their mobile counterpoints. Successful developers will find a way to maintain the look and feel of the car app in a way that it's easy for the user to interact with from the start.

3. Keep it simple, yet entertaining.

In order to get content or messages across to consumers it is important for companies to engage their target audiences instantly and consistently engage them without invading their personal space in such a way that it is invasive. Take Uber for example. The company recognized the need for a car service that was able to be called on command. The app’s simple interface makes it easy for users to see the car coming toward the pickup location. New features like UberPool and the ability to play a rider’s favorite songs via Spotify have made it possible to replicate a personal own personal car experience. In the future,when we’re using electronic devices for nearly everything, the most successful interfaces will be figuring out how to help the user accomplish what they need in the easiest way possible, that is not intrusive and adaptable to the user’s needs.


The bottom line is, a company can look to how kids would want to interact and be engaged with as a pretty strong barometer of how to design a non-intrusive, effective UX. Maybe if Myspace had known this, they wouldn’t have lost users to Facebook.

We’re already starting to see this influence manifest in new devices, such as the extremely simple Apple Watch interface and applications such as Candy Crush or the Fitbit. Defining UX is an ongoing and constantly changing landscape. But maybe with a little bit of inspiration from younger generations, companies can create new designs that are not only visually pleasing but support their bottom line goals.


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