Originally published February 22, 2021.
Not only am I VP of Reproduction for this household, but I’ve also been the end-user of this Small Child for over three years now. I’m going to give it to you straight. The user experience is terrible. Overall, the Small Child is under-designed, unintuitive, and frequently fails to meet even the most relaxed ease-of-use standards. As you may know, the other stakeholder and I are aiming for a 2022 launch of v2.0. I’ve gathered you here today to provide detailed feedback on the ways the Small Child UX design could be improved for future iterations.
Industry experts agree that UX storytelling gives a product a considerable competitive advantage. Users now expect personalized and memorable experiences told in a thoughtful design narrative. Well, let me tell you what. This particular Small Child only tells one story repeatedly, and it’s about the time she fell on an escalator and hurt her bottom at Bed Bath & Beyond. UX storytelling should be persuasive, empathetic, and spark imagination! Future child iterations should focus more on context and narrative structure and less on cheese snacks and Band-aids.
Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
This Small Child has no clear sense of hierarchy in either the visual or navigational sense. When it comes to troubleshooting, it is nearly impossible to find the information you need quickly. For example, last night the Small Child stood emitting a high-pitched scream in her bedroom. I tried to quickly arrive at a solution in a natural, organic way. Is the Small Child in pain? Is the Small Child hungry? It took more than twenty earsplitting minutes to learn the Small Child was angry that Flappy the Elephant didn’t pick her up from school. I explained that Flappy is seven inches tall and has no central nervous system, but the Small Child was inconsolable. Future child iterations should include a focused effort on problem-free navigation with fewer operational and cognitive costs.
Famed architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe pioneered the less-is-more tenet of visual design. How he’d weep if he could see how cluttered and over-decorated this Small Child is. It’s got unicorn print pants, a shirt that says THE FUTURE IS FEMALE, a llama sweater, three hairclips in three different colors, and a raincoat (also unicorns) in a region that’s experiencing crisis-level drought conditions. If you try to remove even one of these visual elements, the Small Child emits a high-pitched scream, and you’re right back to the troubleshooting issue that I’ve already described.
UX-focused writing should be clear and concise. I didn’t think simple language would be a challenge for a three-year-old. But this Small Child is in a Mandarin-immersion preschool, and the guiding voice reads like, “Strawberry yogurt 头 肩膀 膝盖 脚 mommy NOW!!” Here’s another alarming example. One night last week, the Small Child stood in my bedroom doorway at 2 AM and said, “There’s a man with no face in my room… again.” I’ve been in the business long enough to know that there’s one word you do not want to describe your UX copy, and that word is “terrifying.”
This is the area where the Small Child could use the most improvement. There are just so many pain points creating an unsatisfactory user journey. The child goes limp when you try to lift it. It goes stiff when you try to change the clothes. It poops after it gets into the bathtub, but before it reaches the toilet. The tone and voice lack consistency, jolting from jubilant to irate in just a few clicks. This Small Child won’t open its mouth for a toothbrush, but won’t close it during my cousin’s wedding ceremony. It’s as if this Small Child was not designed with accessibility in mind.
Don’t let this feedback overwhelm you. However, I feel like even the most basic user testing in the design phase could have mitigated most of the issues I’ve described. As we push forward to the next iteration, let’s find ways to incorporate data-driven design elements to create a more compatible user-centered child experience.
On our Patreon page: An interview with Leslie Ylinen about writing this piece.