Initial direction: Develop a creative toy concept for 6-8 year olds based in an interactive digital experience.
My classmates Ryan Lacon, Ben Swofford and I used collaborative UX design and research techniques to bring the best of our different strengths and perspectives.
Background Research & Interviews: We researched child development, and interviewed parents and kids to learn what was most fun or annoying about different toys. We found that we were in an interesting space working with a digital product for our age group. Parents wanted to limit screen time, but also wanted their kids to learn about technology. From researching their developmental stage, we learned that 6-8 is a time when kids are learning about cooperation and social skills.
Affinity Map: We wrote our main findings on post-its and sorted them as a group to look for trends. It was interesting to see where parent and kid desires aligned or clashed. Kids went crazy for bright colors, screens, and television characters, while parents were more concerned with educational value and keeping annoying repetitive sounds out of their lives.
Dance instructor interview: With my background in dance, I was particularly interested in the motor development of this age group, and the challenge of bringing movement into a digitally-based game. I spoke with my friend Belle Alvarez, a creative dance teacher with a thorough pedagogy to her approach. I wanted to learn what was important to her in teaching these young kids movement, and how she accomplished her goals. She stressed that at this particular age, class was all about the imagination and story of the movement. While 6-8 yr olds are very energetic and willing to move, they do need a story or game to keep them focused and engaged.
We made user personas to further focus on our target audience for this movement and digital experience toy. We wanted to keep both user groups in mind as we developed ideas.
Kid user persona:
- 6-8 year old
- Motor and cognitive development are key and very connected
- Has a great imagination and loves stories in games
- Learning social skills, how to be a friend
- Gets overwhelmed if given too many choices
- Has an over-abundance of energy
Parent user persona:
- Wants their kid to have a safe way to get energy out in the living room on a rainy day
- Tries to limit mindless screen time for their kids
- Would like a toy that they don't have to facilitate all the time
Ideation: I came up with the first round idea and sketched out my thoughts in Photoshop to show the concept. I thought of putting motion sensors in wristbands that could generate a visualization on a television screen. A toy that makes it so you can draw with your body... I called it BodyDraw!
Prototyping Round 1: We used Google Sketch to draw collaboratively in real time. Watching our volunteer moving in front of the screen, and Ben and I each drew for one hand, simulating the drawing sensor effect. Ben also came up with a concept for a multiplayer game where you attempt a collaborative drawing with a friend.
All video editing by Ben Swofford
Takeaways: We found it was difficult to get quick and accurate enough visual feedback to push the game forward. It was definitely worth the laughs though! Testing also made us realize that it would be better to have a visual feedback for the full body and that the object sensors, whether it be a wristband or something to hold, felt extraneous. Our group brought our heads together again and Ryan had the idea to use a projector and have people's shadows be the visual feedback instead. This would be simulating a silhouette visual that would be produced from a motion sensor, possibly clipped on top of the TV.
Prototyping Round 2: We played with our shadows and graphics editors, challenging each other to see what ways we could simulate affecting graphics via our shadows on screen. As a visual designer, it was a ton of fun!
Takeaways: The shadows worked great for prototyping. Now we needed to add in more of a story and adventurous theme that would be compelling to our age group. We decided a space adventure would be a fun story to build around.
Prototyping Round 3, with Kids! Ryan connected with a local kid's crafting school, where we put together a group of kids in our target audience. He made prototypes of our different game concepts in Axure, so he could manually activate the different responses from his laptop as the kids played in front of him.
The games were a hit. The kids understood the objective of each mini-game pretty quickly and didn't seem fazed even when they eventually figured out that Ryan was making everything happen.
"Buy-a-feature" focus group exercise: We also had the kids choose between different characteristics and features that we could build out for the game in the future, some of which would be harder to prototype convincingly. It was interesting to hear the kids emphasize they didn't like the "Jumping" card, even though they were jumping constantly in several of the games where they were most engaged. It was clearly important that each game was about the story and challenge rather than the physical exercise.
The interactive elements got a great response from our kid testers, but they also didn't shy from critical feedback! They had a lot to say about how the visuals needed to be more fun and colorful. I felt the "shadow" could be an element to play with more visually, as in the real thing it wouldn't have to be an actual shadow but could be more of a bright but transparent silhouette, maybe even customizable with color options.
Final Mockup: I made a mockup of our final product using Illustrator and Photoshop, complete with a colorful motion sensor to clip on top of the TV.
Multiplayer Aspect: We also noticed that the kids just loved playing the games together - partly because taking turns was hard for them - and they encouraged us to make more multiplayer games. Were we to actually produce our toy, I think this would be the next area we would want to develop. It would be interesting to see how different groups of kids (and parents!) interact with the toy together, and what factors might encourage cooperation or competition. Our user testers did invite us back, so who knows!