Modern TV for Kids — How we designed it

Generations of children have grown up with SF (Swedish Film Industry) and their cinemas. Everyone can recognize the signature tune, just as instinctively as the melody of the ice cream truck approaching.

Do you know Pippi Longstocking? Then you know SF!


Our first meeting with SF turned out to be about something different than cinemas. A brand new streaming service called SF Kids Play was in the making. Completely dedicated to children.

We have designed a few streaming services before. But never before designed one that allows the children to sit in the driver’s seat.


The importance of an isolated context

In 2015, 59% of the Swedish households owned a tablet device. One third of all 2 to 5 year olds use tablets daily. The number for the six to eleven year olds are 51%. One of the most common activities is to watch video.

Children under seven years rarely use a computer or web browser. Their experiences are isolated to apps. Something that both parents and children appreciate and value.

A child development and interest

Children’s incredibly rapid development means that you get to see each year as a separate target group. At an early stage we decided to limit the age spans to one to ten years old, with a special focus on the 3 year olds.

Muscle memory is what we rely on at any age. It is one of the first skills that we develop. With the help of repetitive training, young ones learn fairly early and quick. Young children search and navigate through images that they find meaningful. As young as one year olds are able to learn icons and the basics of functions like play and pause since they are often encountered.

Before the age of eight children are incapable of abstract thinking. Abstract thinking enables us to understand the consequences and to predict several steps of an action. To make the app accessible for the youngest, it was important to keep the interaction sequences as short as possible.

The most common, and most recently watched movies have bigger images and are placed in the center of the screen.

Touch, tap, and avoid frustration

We put great emphasis on minimizing the risk of errors in SF Kids Play. Most errors came from the limited ability to think several steps ahead, but also from not fully developed fine motor skills.

We studied how children used and above all, held the device in their hands. 
We found that not only the size and color of buttons is crucial. 
A childs’ hand was often found resting at the edges of the screen. By avoiding placing interactions near the edges we limited most errors. We also paid extra attention to double, or even constant tapping without the app acting unexpected.

Video player interaction of the SF Kids Play App.

Be relevant
Being relevant is the biggest challenge for most on-demand services.
Users spend endless amount of time browsing vast catalogues of content and genres. Time is spent trying to figure out what to watch rather than actually being entertained.

We designed the content in SF Kids Play to be as relevant to the child as possible. We did this by placing the most popular, and most recently watched movies in the center of the screen. We also connected the different movie characters to the various age groups to make the home screen even more relevant to kids of all ages.

Guide the child

The struggle for children to remember previous actions made us put an extra effort into guiding the child to the primary action on each view. Somewhat unconventionally, we achieved clarity by adding a time delay on buttons appearing on the screen.

No matter our age, we constantly battle with impatiece when it comes to digital experiences.

Naturally we are forced to buffer and to load videos and longer lists of images. As the app turns inactive (buffering, paused video or time limit restrictions) we serve up some fun animations to make the wait less tedious.

Character and animation design by Magnus Östergren, Most Formal

A little something for the parents

One of the fundaments when building SF Kids Play was to enable children, even at young ages, to be able to use the app alone.

Parts of the app was designed for parents use only. To access these parts, parents needed to solve a riddle by placing the emojis in the right order.

What we learned

Nothing but real content matters
We performed a vast number of user tests. While working with children in a wide age range we realized at an early stage that real content was the key to success in our tests. If a child wanted to watch Peppa Pig, it was a disaster if Bob the Builder started playing.

Patience is a fast-ending source
To preload content that the child is likely to be interested in is crucial. At stages where we had to rely on traditional buffering (i.e. when loading a video) it was important to serve some distraction. By animating the UI we minimized the experience of waiting.

If you are in Scandinavia, take SF Kids Play for a spin!

Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sfkids.android

Apple Appstore: https://appsto.re/se/K7fj_.i


Common Ground is a UX design studio based in Stockholm, Sweden. 
The Common Ground toolbox holds research, strategy, UX design, user testing, prototyping and visual design.