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.

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