Five things to consider when conducting UX research with children

April 5, 2023
Conducting UX research with children involves additional considerations. Despite these challenges, the unique worldview of children often produces fascinating insights!
Conducting UX research with children comes with a few additional considerations. Legally, consent must be obtained via the participant’s parents if the child is under 16. Recruitment also becomes more challenging as it involves considering the availability of both the child and their parent/guardian, who must accompany the child during the study. Most importantly, as the child is still in the process of developing a worldview, there may be extra methodological considerations to ensure that good insights are collected:

Language: Moderator guides often have technical terms related to the product that may be too advanced for children. Recently in a study, I used the phrase popup window, which confused the child. It turns out the child understood popup windows as a “box.” Always consider the child’s perspective and simplify the language of questions to match their understanding.

Engaging Tasks: Some children have shorter attention spans, and asking them a string of questions could quickly disengage them. Try to introduce activities in the session. For instance, when asking them their preference between two designs, have participants physically sort them rather than simply verbalising their choice. Engaging them with tasks could help maintain their attention. This would also help remedy any potential recency effects.

Expressing Thoughts: Children’s verbal reasoning skills are still developing, and they may find it difficult to express their thoughts. Consider alternative methods like offering them the opportunity to illustrate their ideas or providing them with stimuli that would help visualise their ideas. For instance, when asking a child to rank something from 1-10, print out a physical copy of the scale and use icons to add additional context to the numbers to help the child make an informed decision.

Parent-Child Dynamics: While parents and guardians act as chaperones, they may sometimes jump in to answer questions on behalf of their children during the session. While this behaviour reflects natural parental instincts, this limits the perspectives coming from the child and introduces confirmation bias. When this happens, it is essential to remain in control of the interview and to gently divert the focus onto the child and encourage them to voice their thoughts and preferences

Age & Cognitive Ability: While the cognitive abilities of a 22-year-old and 25-year-old adult are not significantly different, the cognitive abilities of a 4-year-old are very different from an 8-year-old. For instance, while a 4-year-old is just starting to read, an 8-year-old can begin to consider more complex problems. If testing a range of ages, it is important to group children in terms of their maturity and appropriately tailor the research questions to their age group.

While conducting UX research with children comes with some additional challenges, the unique worldview of children often produces fascinating (and at times humorous) insights. What’s more, being able to see the child’s enthusiasm in shaping the future of products and services that they would potentially use makes the study an incredibly rewarding experience.


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