We thought we are addressing our app for kids… we were wrong!
What’s more important? Creating a product that the customers would want to purchase, or a product that the user would love using? As product managers/UX/UI designers we need to find a balance between the two, and satisfy the needs of both the customer and the user.
Our decisions affect the products’ KPI’s for success. For example: when designing it for the users, successful KPIs will be long session times, a high percentage of returning users etc. On the other hand, when designing it for our “paying customer,” we’d expect to have a high conversion rate, strong lead to purchase numbers etc.
Here at Wikids, we would obviously love to get both. A product that the kids (users) would love, but that would also appeal the parents (customers) enough to make them go to the app store, search, install, let their kids play with it, and then purchase (and that’s a very long funnel).
To do that, we need to understand and find the balance between them both. Where, when and what we’re willing to give up on, from each side’s needs. Most of the time the user and the customer don’t see eye to eye and have conflicting wills. So how do we find the balance?
Before answering that, let’s try to better understand the difference between customers and users.
Let’s take North West for example, Kim Kardashian’s child, uses products that her mom purchases for her. We really doubt that she wakes up in the morning and decides to buy a $3,500 fur coat. She is the end-user and doesn’t get to make purchasing decisions. She uses what she gets. Kim, the mom, is the customer that is exposed to the variety of options and does the purchasing decisions herself. Therefore she is the customer.
It’s the same with most kids products. Young kids don’t know how to read they are not exposed to products (usually) and they don’t have the ability to pay (and with good reason).
Wikids, for example, is helping young kids who can’t read yet know more, just by having quick access to knowledge, formatted in a way they can relate to. Our app is a talking encyclopedia for kids (ages 3–7), and we believe that anything can be explained to kids in ~80 words. Our entries are accompanied by images, a text, and friendly voice narration — so kids get a comprehensive, and engaging easy-to-swallow explanation.
However, before our encyclopedia talks to kids, it should appeal to parents!
When we designed Wikids, we put the kids in focus — we developed an app for them. Throughout the process we had kids focus groups and consulted with specialists in the field (child psychologists, education specialists, speech therapists and brain researchers). After the research process, we performed some usability tests on our users. Our conclusions were that kids are interested in: having fun! (what a surprise), and also in getting recognition for their success and achievements. So our app was designed to answer these needs.
On the other hand, our customers are the parents, they’re not the users, but they’re the ones who will choose whether or not to install our product — and even better, to purchase it. We also need to answer their needs, to provide values they believe in. Parents believe that it’s important to invest in their children’s education, to give them “safe and educational screen-time” (since they have screen-time anyway). We also understood that the parents see an immediate return of investment because the kids are happy to share the information they’ve learned in order to get recognition and appreciation.
In the beginning, as we talked and listened to kids, we also placed an emphasis on getting the parents’ input. What we mostly heard was that they need to quiet their conscience. They feel guilty for the fact that kids are spending so much time in front of screens, and since the parents are not always available to be with their kids, they can’t control what they see on the screen. They knew their kids love videos, songs, tests, scores, puzzles, and animations, and were looking for the same kind of super-hyper app that will provide them.
Attitude ≠ Behavior
As a startup we really wanted to listen to the parents and implement their feedback, but every development costs money and is time consuming. So we decided to test before building complex features, and create one feature that many parents requested: a “parent zone.”
The parents requested it since they wanted to receive updates about their child’s activities, be more involved in their kids screen time and get a sense of what there kids are learning. As part of the test, we added a “fake doorway” to a “parent zone” located at a very prominent place on the main screen, just to see how many parents would actually click it.
We found out that out of ~767K events only 0.01% clicked the parents zone button. Only 56 parents out of our hundreds of thousands users entered the parents zone! This is a great example for attitude versus behavior. Parents have values but they don’t always behave according to them.
Conclusion: This should be taken into consideration when building an app for kids (we don’t always have to listen to what the parents ask for… We might spend lots of time and money on developments that won’t improve the app nor the KPIs).
We also learned that parents don’t always know what will appeal to their children. We saw an example of that when testing graphic designs. In 2014 when we were looking for our design “language” we created several different UIs. One of the sketches was made of polygons (considered trendy back then).
The parents loved this sketch! 84% of the parents chose the polygons out of all the sketches we showed them. However, when it came to the kids, none of them chose that design.
As for the narration, when we asked parents what they think their kids will prefer they bet on a child narrator, while the kids really prefered to hear the voice of an adult!
We’re following our heart, our kids, and our users!
As a self funded company we’ve decided to create our MVP according to the children’s preferences, the users, since they are the ones spending the most time with the app. As a result, we got responses about the “old fashioned design” from some parents and investors, but our long session times, higher than average number of returning users and high conversion rates were undeniable.
Or are they? We thought that we should try and give the parents (customers) what they want. A cleaner, more trendy design. We replaced the UI and left the functionality as it was, just to see if it attracts more parents. Prior to releasing the update, we confirmed the new look with moms of kids aged 3–7 which are exposed to trends in apps. We built the new look according to trends, similar to the design of successful apps. Used lighter colors, removed textures to flatten the design and added seasonal motifs, such as snow — small things we could rather easily do.
Will the kids love this skin more than the old one? Was there a change in the way they behaved? Was there a change in purchases?
And the winner is…
The results were interesting. As for the users, the session time went down from 6:40 minutes to 5:32, a 22% decrease! So from the user-aspect, it looked like they preferred the old design, or at least prefer the new one less. As for the conversion, it actually went up. The parents prefered the new trendy design, which could be seen as a 60% increase in conversion rates (from install to in-app-purchase) among US parents.
Conclusion 1: When purchasing for kids, the parents buy for themselves first. They buy toys the kid “needs,” such as expensive buggies and baby wipe warmers based on their own preferences.
Conclusion 2: Kids are not exposed to the same trends as their parents are. They prefered the warm- textured UI, regardless of what the current hot design trend is.
As the creator of kids products, we are led by a strong belief that independent learning is crucial for kids. If curiosity is the key to creativity and success, it must be nurtured at an early age. Therefore, we always take under consideration the different culture/age/trends, that users and customers are exposed to. In short, we are looking for the right proportion between what provides the most value for parents and for kids.
We are testing and learning everyday what motivates each of them and where the “sweet spot,” the place where the user ends and the customer begins, is located.
This is a true story by an indie app developer, who would love to hear what you think. About this article, about the Wikids app and any suggestions or feedbacks you may have!