Lessons in User Interface from a Toddler

June 27, 2014

Libby robbing somebody, looking for their phone.I have the good pleasure of being the dad of a vibrant 21 month old toddler. My daughter Libby has taught me many things about life from the mundane to the monumental stuff. In this blog post, we are going to talk about how she has educated me on user experience.

A Developers Goal

One of the things that web developers strive to achieve is a clean user interface with a consistent user experience. Simply put, we want users to be able to use our software. We make buttons that have a common look and placement and have certain important elements that are every page in the same spot, among other things. The goal is so the end user can quickly do their work, stress-free.

Bedtime Routine

Back to my daughter, Libby occasionally uses a kindle fire. Actually, almost everyday, before bed for about 10 minutes. She is very demanding of user interface of both the kindle itself and the apps installed. Here are a few examples. One day, while flipping through photos, she came to a picture of a fire and started backing up saying “hot”, like she has been taught with a real fire. Another time, she saw a picture of a dozen roses in my facebook feed and brought the kindle to her nose to smell them.

I have a great affinity for the outdoors and that was rubbed off on my little girl via way of animal calls. While looking at my facebook feed again, there was a picture of a moose, taken quickly with a cell phone. It was a little blurry and a little too far away.  She started laying down a mean cow moose call while expecting the moose to come closer in the photo.

Lessons Learned

While some of the stories above may be slightly entertaining, I have observed a few constant things from Libby. Of the things that I have learned from her, none are new to me. All are things I have known for quite some time, but now feel as though I understand them better.

So here is my list, most important user experience considerations, according to a toddler:

  • Speed, ability to do stuff before Dad sees.
  • Immediate feedback on actions, to know if it’s working or not
  • Lots of buttons and/or actions will just provoke a user to use them all in vain
  • The most commonly used feature on the screen should be the easiest to engage with

Another benefit of thinking of user interface design from a toddler’s point of view, young kids can’t read. Adults can, but seldom will while navigating through the interface of an application. They want it to work easily and quickly.

Keeping it simple, is not only what a toddler expects out a user experience is actually inline with what an average user expects.

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Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

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