Goal: During my time as a UX Writer for Digital Influx, I created engaging content and activities for a course that taught the basics of UX Design to kids, as well as the supporting course material for their guardians or teachers.
My role: I was a UX Writer, later also Content Lead, so I was mainly involved in creating the lesson and activities for kids (and later preteens), giving feedback on content and sometimes design, and iterating based on user testing and internal feedback. We were simultaneously teaching and living the design thinking process!
The Product & Process
When I joined the project, the first one or two lessons had gone through a few iterations already, but we were still a work-in-progress and trying to find our voice. If you didn't know, writing for children poses its unique challenges:
- simplify and teach complex concepts
- write appropriately for the reading levels of 8-to-12 year-old children
- children have very different developmental and reading levels
- making content fun but still educational
Ideating and Testing
Working under an Agile framework, our two-week sprints felt more like weekly sprints due to our user testing goals. A complete lesson with activities that we wrote on Tuesday would be tested by Friday afternoon. Each session was conducted with a teacher/moderator and a student (or a few students) over Zoom. Afterwards, we'd revise the content based on our observations and the research team's findings. The tight deadlines were both a curse and a blessing—they didn't leave much room for finesse but forced us to abandon any illusions of permanence.
These first drafts were inevitably ugly, but served their purpose of validating the underlying content. Once content was solid, design could only improve the product.
Personally, I loved observing user testing, which showed our work's direct impact! The kids did not hide it if the material was confusing or dull, and when the kids really loved the class, their energy shone through the screen.
Over multiple rounds of user research, the product evolved from our first iteration of slides to a clickable interface with embedded videos. After verifying our content, the focus had shifted towards interactions and animation, which made the product a lot more exciting. I’m sure it’s gotten even better. Sign up to try the demo!
Teaching the Teachers
User testing also revealed the needs of our indirect user, the parent or teacher of our direct user. The role of teacher/moderator during user testing changed hands depending on who on the team was available to teach that day. We wanted to simulate what would happen in the real world by recruiting someone unfamiliar with UX, in order to make sure the product could stand on its own, so it was usually someone from marketing.
Our main teacher did very well with teaching the earlier general content, but as the lessons become more specific to UX—the kids would ask her questions that she seemed insecure about, and sometimes her interpretation of the lesson content went in unexpected directions. In response:
- I proposed to set up pre-testing prep sessions, where we could test the teacher's initial response to the content and clarify the content before class.
- We accelerated the production of teacher's notes for each lesson, to test it simulatenously.
After user testing, we had the assistance of a teacher-turned-consultant in further revising these notes to incorporate pedagological best practices and her years of experience in the classroom.
Sometimes the job of creating content was easy, such as simplifying Crazy Eights to Crazy Fours for the iteration lesson. (Unsurprisingly, ideation was everyone's favorite lesson.) Other topics were harder to sugarcoat, such as research methods, which forced us to think outside the box. Since our entire team was small, Content also assisted with copy for the Games and the Design teams to make sure everything aligned in voice and vision.
Our product's underlying goals were to be:
- Accessible, in language and of content
- Inclusive, in language and representation
- Community-minded, through prompting the kids to think about how they relate to others
- Useful, by teaching real concepts and methods that are applicable beyond our classroom
It was empowering to work with a team where we were comfortable with airing our concerns about our execution of these values. We tried to talk the talk and walk the walk. I felt that I learned a lot over this experience, especially in collaborating with other people who believed in the mission of the product, and being allowed to take on as much as I can carry.