The kids are all right
Focus testing is important in businesses of all stripes, but it’s vital to Toca Boca, where the need to view things from a child’s perspective means that, well, you need to frequently seek the perspective of a child. “It’s always an eye opener to come out on a kids test and meet the audience,” says kids research manager Chris Lindgren. “For a couple of weeks afterwards you look at what you’re doing in a different way. It’s easy to be in the office and design for yourself, but you have to remember who you’re making things for.”
Traditional user-testing methods don’t apply here. You can’t sit a three-year-old down in front of a product and ask for their thoughts on a specific feature. Instead you have to watch what they do and try to learn from it. Not all sessions are digital: Toca Boca regularly tests concepts before a line of code has even been written, taking pen-and-paper prototypes or familiar toys (Playmobil sets were used early in Toca Life’s development) to a free-play session to see what the kids choose to do with them.
Sessions are often held at Toca Boca’s kid-friendly headquarters, but are more commonly conducted at preschool and after-school clubs, with just two kids in the room – enough for them to feel relaxed, but not as distracted as they’d be in a large group. Then the tester simply points an iPhone camera at the tester’s hands, and watches what happens.
“You have to be careful asking questions to kids,” Lindgren explains. “Especially those that have just started school: they’re just getting used to the world of right and wrong, and if you ask too specific a question, they might try to find the ‘right’ answer. It’s them being polite – but then other times they’re not polite at all! They’ll just reach for the Home button and look for something else to do.” There’s nothing so brutal as a child.