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My company's main product is a mobile application (Android & iOS) that provides kids content (interactive stories, videos, coloring, games) for kids between 3 and 8 years old.

We're still struggling with providing a UX that is easy for kids and understandable as well. We also have a few new features we'd like to add.

Taking into consideration that we don't have a UX expert:

  1. What is the best approach/ place to find one?
  2. What should his skills be (graphic design? kids apps experience?)
  3. Should we hire a full time UX expert or just find a consultant who will do it as a one time gig?
  • 3
    most 3 year olds can figure out a mobile device UI faster than most 43 year olds. :) – DA01 Jun 1 '15 at 20:33
  • Use high contrast colors. Stick to consistent colors (e.g. next is always green). Use huge buttons and don't present too many options. – Jonas Köritz Jan 11 '16 at 13:00
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My advice is to find someone with a few years of experience in the world of mobile app. In addition, according you working with children would surely help this person has also skill in psychology (not to be underestimated). Another important skill is definitely HCI.

If you are missing then the figure of the graphics designer then skil should go on these.

Skil more general then are those on programming, that make you realize that the person is able to bring working prototypes but most can understand the problems that may be under development by the team of developers.

Where to find it is difficult, it depends. Linkedin has always proved a great place to find competent people.

As for the time of contract you should absolutely hire a person for the duration of the project. You can not ask that it be done this work with an advisory one-off; is a process which is divided into several stages and that to be done properly and professionally needs that the ux designer is present throughout the development process.

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We used to struggle to hire a role of UX designer after our product was launched. As a result, we decided to hire a UX consultant to give us advice/suggestion to improve our user flow and product. To be honest, we failed to practice the UX methods and testing. We ended up adding a lot of unnecessary features into product.

My suggestion is to hire a full-time/in-house UX expert if it is affordable. You could find UX designer in Linkedin or UX community forum.

An experience UX designer should know all the skills:- concept design, adaptive design, marketing, user testing, user metric, user research, etc. Personally speaking, development(coding) and human psychologist are good to have too.

If an UX designer has a skilful, he will know how to find a way to test in the kids apps. Of course, it is a good mark if he has designed a kid app before.

If your budget is tight and it is not easy to hire one immediately too, meanwhile, you can define the user story and user scenarios to help you make decision what features should be developed. Before developing it, test the ideas and concepts with kids by using a quick prototype.

You can use these prototype apps (Marvelapp, Invision and so on).

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My company takes on projects like this (where there's a question of the best way to do it, not kids apps specifically), and here's how we go about it:

  1. What are the customer needs? Your case may seem simple but I'd immediately ask about more specific demographics, pricing, general strategy, etc., as well as budget, timing, and any other constraints.
  2. What are you looking for? A UX designer should not be confused with UI, and if you're looking for both in a single person, potentially with coding experience...really what is the complexity of the project and the needs of the person you don't have.
  3. What is most cost effective for you? Hiring an outside firm (like mine for instance) may be much more cost effective than hiring a full time UX designer. It may be much less. It may be better to hire an individual contractor versus a design firm. You might require someone in-house, for a handful of reasons. Maybe not. Those are all important things to consider.

There's definitely a lot to find out. In my experience finding good designers is not about experience as much as it is understanding the problem, the goal, and having the capacity to build a solution. Experienced UX designers just tend to be much better at that...but I've seen some very young guys with little to no time in the industry come up with some incredible stuff.

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Every situation is different, I don't think one can come up with an exact answer without being very familiar with your firm.

Given you say your main product is a mobile application though it seems that you're working on this day in, day out. This suggests a full time UX expert could be useful.

As for how to recruit a UX person...we're just people. We check the usual job listings sites. An easy way could be to look into universities with HCI programmes, it tends to be pretty hard to get your foot on the ladder of UX and working on an app for kids will probably appeal to a lot of people so there should be plentiful recent grads who would be interested in this kind of work. Maybe you could even get somebody to do their masters thesis with you- this also lets you trial them on the cheap and find out if you really do need a full time UXer.

Skills needed by a UX person- graphic design helps but don't be drawn in by pretty pictures. Visual design and user experience, though they can compliment each other, are different things. You want to be looking for someone who can really understand the way people think and knows how to ask the right questions to work out people's view points. With kids I'd imagine this will need quite different techniques to with adults!

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My observation based on 'user testing' with my sprogs is that a surprisingly large apps proportion of aimed at kids get laden with "fun kiddie UI fripperies" which is usable by precisely no-one. That would make me cautious about using a designer with mostly visual strengths.

Given growth of use of mobiles kids have been shown to use any solid, simple "grown-up UX" - as per iOS or Android just fine. What you need is a designer that can do the mobile UI fundamentals well, and secondly can research what aspects (if any) are actually are specific to kids. e.g. At 3-5 yrs fine motor skills are often still evolving.

Also my informal observation is kids tend to stick to the "red route" or core path and not care much about additional features or facilities. So when reading

We also have a few new features we'd like to add.

I would definitely recommend someone who can do research and comeback with convincing data to back-up a statement of

There are a few new features the kids would like you to add.

A good consultant should be able to outline a research project and produce actionable results. From there can feel-out whether in-house designer or more consultancy makes sense for the design phase.

TL;DR: First) get consultant to do research on features. Second) designer to do solid mobile app interaction, not visuals.

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Get a UI Designer with experience dealing with children's content. Kids UX is very different than normal ("Adult") UX -- while normal UX, we define "user friendliness" or "usability" as getting from point A to B or meeting Goal X in the least confusing way, shortest amount of time, and the least "painful" way. Kids don't care about that. They like clicking, tapping around. In some of my experience, the more maze-looking your UX is, the more they enjoy it (as long as there are animation/funny/cute things happening each time they touch/click something -- this is pretty much reverse of adult ux.

So, in my opinion, if your budget is tight, invest in animator and graphic designers instead. If there are enough things happening on the screen, kids won't care if the UX is "painful", in fact, they take pleasure in it.

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