In designing our parental services I often think about the user experience I provide to my children. Unlike many start-ups the overall health of the network matters more than the individual.
Our user experience is family driven.
Terms of Service Constantly In Flux
All users agree to a non-revokable license of “I own your ass, with all my heart, for time eternal.” The ToS are pretty strict here.
As a network administrator I reserve the right to alter the Terms of Service without notice. We want our users to grow and we will provide a sense of agency across the network but we reserve the right to revoke or change any condition of the system at any time.
Take electronics, for example. I wish I could say I have and enforce lofty standards. We try to say no electronics when you wake up. Another common rule is an equal amount of educational play or board games before electronics. Admins may also enforce the call for social electronics such as the Wii versus tablets.
Yet at other times we need to enforce the STFU protocol in order to complete parental duties. At these moments, which can happen at any time, the rules around electronics maybe altered.
Accessibility for Users is Key
All activities in the system have to be adaptable to the needs of individual users.
This causes the resizing of features and tools across the network.
As the admin of three male users varying in both height and age we have to constantly adjust our system to ensure everyone stays happy.
This usually means all user engagement sessions have to be inclusive. Accessibility is the heart of UX.
Times do arise when system admins may want to engage with a specific user. This is encouraged but should be taken under caution. Alternative spaces should be provided for other users or a strict NDA should be agreed upon between the system admin and a particular user.
Throttling of Traffic Allowed
There are specific bottlenecks in the system that must be dealt with in order to ensure a pleasant user experience. In order to maintain overall network health we often demand all traffic be treated the same.
There are many places in the house where users are willing to compete for a better position in the stack.
To combat this natural tendency among our users we have designated spaces where games, racing, or passing are strictly forbidden.
The health of the system matters more than the happiness or competitive drive of any one particular user.
Assigning Clear Roles
Users, in order to have a happy experience benefit from clearly defined roles in the most public of forums.
We strive for a democracy by design. We want our users to arrive at the choices that best serve the network.
We do allow some choice in determining roles. Such as a unique UI for toothbrushes.
We even allow our users to connect to other networks, and through our very Open API they can bring in pop-culture elements.
Every boy needs a hero. Our mass culture is no different than those in the past. Diego shares much in common with Thor.
While other sysadmins may balk at the commercialization of childhood we posit it comes down to picking your battles.
The bathroom, like other common forums in the system is already a frontline of frustration. Yes users can pick a commercial toothbrush but once your role is assigned you must stick to it.
In fact limiting choice in public forums improves the UX of parenting. A common mistake we learned early on: offering choice leads to conflicts and down time. When options were baked into the UI we often had to reconfigure our servers in order to complete a user interaction…or worse. Founders spending valuable time settling disputes among users.
For example the small issue of purchasing cups of different colors can lead to great tension among users. They will constantly cycle through the files until they find the color of choice. Furthermore the users decision may change based on the influence of another user. Sometimes users will troll each other and demand they have different colors. Other times they complain to admins that the colors do not match.
Limit choices in spaces where all the users gather.
Offer Mass Storage
There has to be room in your heart for every user. They are each unique and bring a different persona and will require their own pathway through the system.
As admins of the network we often find we need to offer opportunities of mass storage and allow all the users to gather. This often occurs at odd hours of the night.
You can see a sudden spike of traffic in the wee hours of the evening and a place designed for two users. This leads to congestions, specifically for the admins. They get overcrowded by your users. Embrace this. Plan for mass storage.
Not every network has the space or means for a king size bed but a group hug or a family walk provides unlimited space. Love isn’t physical. Its an energy, a synaptic bond cutting across dimensions, Mordor, and where ever that kid in Never Ending Story flew off too.
This post was originally published on jgregorymcverry.com