Magic Scrolls #1: 3 Reasons why you should Read “Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products

Stuart MacFarlane and Johanna Höysniemi  are the authors or the awesome book Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, this reading takes you through every step of testing and evaluating every kind of interactive product for children (from toys to games passing through web softwares and much more).

Keep reading to know three good reasons for to put this book in your backlog right now!

1. Deciphering a new target public

“Children expect more from ordinary products. They may believe technology is magic. This may lead to high expectations that might not be realized”

– Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, page 30

Children may look like little adults and in many cases we underestimate their intelligence and wits, the reality is that those little goblins have a whole different way of seeing and interacting with the world around them.

The first part of the book focus only in describing different theories about child cognitive and emotional development through each age, how they relate to interactive products and the role of interactivity in the development of their education.

This section is invaluable to all the designers that think that developing for younglings is basically making an simplified version of your interactive project. Children are a very peculiar and unique public to develop for, and this part does a good job of analysing and explaining how their minds, behaviour and skills are geared.

2. The Wizard of Oz  and other methodologies

Part 2 and 3 of the book focus solely in how to evaluate the products, interviewing, testing, recording methods are all thoroughly explained. This is the part you bought this book for, all the information in this part is very applicable to interactive projects and most of what is said about interviewing and recording data from testing with children can also be applied to adults.

One of the highlights of this section is The Wizard of Oz method. This is great for teams that desire to test their projects before programming an alpha version.

How does it work? As stated by the authors:

“A Wizard of Oz evaluation is one in which some or all of the interactivity that would normally be controlled by computer technology is imitated, or “wizarded”, by a human being”

– Evaluating Children’s Interactive Products, page 219

Not only this makes it possible to test your product before the developing phase, making it possible to forecast usability issues, as this method makes it possible to adapt the “software” feedback in real time as the “wizard” feels will better suit the children experience.

This method is not easy to apply, making the right environment and fast response to keep the belief that the software is really working without the aid of a human behind it is very hard, but the book offers great guidelines to build this methodology.

3.Amazing cases

The fourth and last part of the book tells the story of different cases that applied the methodologies mentioned in the book and reviews the all the steps taken in the application of the products prototypes.

Chapter 16 is one of the most interesting ones, it talks about three prototypes of games controlled by motion and the way the had to predict how children would behave in order to capture the movements is very interesting.

The Wizard of Oz method is very well applied in this case, were a man controlled the game’s feedback according to each movement, only proving the usefulness of this technique.

@ rights of header photo are of Seth Werkheiser. (this image licensed as Creative Commons)

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