The tech market is flooded with new products on a regular basis. While most of the attention revolves around the latest smartphone, game console, or tablet, there’s a quiet, yet potent, industry that thrives in the background: children’s tech.
Whether you’re talking about toddler-friendly keyboards, indestructible cases, or cloud-based educational learning services, there’s no doubt the children’s technology market is alive and well. If you’re trying to get in on the action by designing kid-friendly tech, here are a few key principles to remember during the development process.
1. Keep Parents in Mind
While your primary users will be children, they’ll be intimately tied to their parents’ approval (or lack thereof) to use your device. It’s essential to begin your design process by considering what parents are looking for in children’s devices. This is just as important to prioritize as the user experience of the kids themselves. Parents typically don’t want flashy gadgets that encourage excessive use or addictive behavior. They want devices that expose their children to the tech world in a safe, non-addictive manner.
Stephen Dalby, founder of children’s smartphone company Gabb Wireless, had this in mind when he created the Gabb phone. Dalby says one of his overarching goals was to create a phone that “helps parents manage their children’s exposure to technology in a way that is safe and meets each family’s unique needs.”
His sentiment is reflected by parents around the globe. It serves to reinforce the fact that parents’ motivations and standards should always be at the forefront when designing children’s tech.
2. Prioritize Safety
Everything from in-app purchases to password and virus protection should be carefully considered when designing tech tools for children. Children thrive on curiosity — in fact, when approached in a healthy manner, it’s a key ingredient for learning. However, this natural curiosity is a double-edged sword. An unprotected device can quickly lead a child into trouble.
When designing tech for kids, take the time to consider cybersecurity factors:
- Will children be able to engage in online interactions while using the device? If so, how can that be restricted?
- Will cyberbullying be a concern?
- How can you protect the device from viruses and malware, considering the fact that a child may be incapable of installing updates?
- What is the minimal amount of personal information from the user that’s required? How can you safeguard it?
- Will you provide a way for parents to monitor activity on the device?
These are just some of the many cybersecurity questions you should address when developing children’s tech. The reputation of your products — and even your company itself — will uniquely be at stake when you create something geared toward children.
3. Focus on UX
User experience (UX) is a hot topic — and for good reason. Often, it’s the user’s experience that makes or breaks his opinion of a company. User experience is, in essence, every aspect of a product or service that a user interacts with. It’s all of these individual interactions that ultimately create a user’s opinion of your technology.
Good UX is a critical aspect of creating high-quality children’s tech. Just because you have an idea for an educational subscription or a kid-friendly smartphone doesn’t mean you can skip over usability. If your tech takes forever to load, requires constant updates, or has a bad battery life, it can deflate the product’s overall quality, regardless of the content itself.
4. Test Your Tech Properly
Finally, make sure to properly test your tech. Remember, children are your primary users; often, they still have an underdeveloped understanding of how to use technology.
With that in mind, properly test your tech with childlike users in mind. In fact, having as few as five volunteers test your technology can weed out roughly 85% of interface problems.
Ask parents to test the tech with their children in mind, but also give your product to a child who would be in your target demographic. See how she instinctively uses it, and get ideas for improvement directly from her. Feedback from that testing is a crucial step that can save tremendous headaches down the road.
If you can follow these steps carefully as you design your tech, you’ll be able to create an end product that’s optimized, engaging, and safe for young users. That’s a fairy tale ending for you, your primary users, and their parents.