Lessons from the backseat: What my kids remind me about UX design

In the wonderful world of parenting, there’s nothing quite like watching my 4 and 5-year-olds dive into the captivating world of mobile apps during a long car ride.  These tiny explorers seem to possess an innate talent for deciphering the icons and intentions cleverly woven into app design.  It’s as though, despite only using their devices on the rare long journeys in a car, they were born to be digital adventurers, gliding through these apps with confidence that makes it appear they’ve been doing this non-stop for years.  Their knack for it speaks volumes about the user-friendly design principles that underpin the app universe, and what makes it one of the most successful tech industries in the world.

But, as any parent knows, this journey isn’t without its bumps.  Picture this: we’re on a winding road, the car’s engine humming, and my youngsters are engrossed in a game.  They’re having a blast until they encounter a peculiar pattern – let’s say, a drag-and-drop sticker function for their avatar.  They can see by how it is presented that both the stickers and the avatar can do something.  The assumption is that the avatar receives items from the other side.  Confusion sets in, and their little faces scrunch up in frustration as they tap the screen furiously to figure it out.  They know it can do something, but they don’t know how, and they can’t read to get more information, so context is everything here.  The cries and screams that ensue serve as a poignant reminder of the importance of providing a smooth and intuitive user experience, even for our tiniest tech-savvy adventures.

Something this Game Dev failed to consider in this instance is that kids their age and younger may either not have the experience to know about gestures on a mobile device, may lack the motor skills to accurately manipulate a desired target, or – much like most toddlers – lack the patience to wait for helper animations. Additionally, it’s crucial to remember that some children may have disabilities that make navigating the app even more challenging, underlining the need for accessible design for all users. By the time the kids are at the peak of their frustration, the app is already frozen, and the device needs restarting.  Meanwhile, most parents are at a loss for what happened because they cannot sit and watch their kids play all the time.

This charming yet sometimes challenging scenario draws a parallel to the world of grown-ups who, too, experience exasperation when grappling with poorly designed apps and software.  In the grand tapestry of technology, this tale underscores the timeless value of the “Keep it Simple, Stupid” (KISS) rule in design.  Whether it’s a child navigating a game or an adult attempting to conquer a digital task, simplicity, and intuitive design remain paramount.  Was a drag and drop necessary there, or could the same job have been accomplished by tapping a sticker and allowing it to appear on the avatar?

As we observe our little ones explore the digital frontier and their reactions to unexpected stickers, it serves as a heartwarming reminder of the principles we hold dear here at Nimbl.  Just as we cherish simplicity and intuitive design in our everyday family experiences, we’re committed to offering our clients simple, efficient, and effective designs for their more complex systems.  It’s a philosophy that extends from the youngest digital explorers to the most seasoned professionals, bridging generations and ensuring that user-friendly design remains at the heart of what we do.

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