This week our UX Lab hosted over a dozen kids for one-on-one usability testing. Recruiting and testing 3-5 year olds can be a challenge to the most seasoned researcher, but here are a couple tips that we have found reduce the risky aspects of testing kids.

  1. Don’t recruit children that don’t know how to use a computer, unless you want to see the right mouse dialog repeatedly throughout the session.
  2. Ask what the child uses at home for an input device, as laptops dominate sales, many kids have used trackpads, not mice. If you are testing using a desktop, you can purchase USB trackpads.
  3. Be prepared for bored siblings, young and old. Have distractions for other children that might be coming along, if you don’t have something for them to do, they will certainly try to “help” their siblings.
  4. Recommend to Mommy or Daddy that it might be a good idea to potty break right before going in.
  5. If you need to test over lunch hours, remind parents that they might want to schedule lunch early, or a late morning snack to help avoid meltdowns.
  6. Keep the sessions short. 30 minutes max for under 6.
  7. Balloons for good listeners.

Sure, even with these guidelines we had tantrums, potty emergencies, a couple tumbles, but we had a blast. (and so did our client!)

Testing children requires patience, sure. But to be good at it, it requires a sense of humor and more importantly a sense of adventure.

Jason Pentecost

About Jason Pentecost

As Principal and Co-Founder of Mediabarn, clients and associates rely heavily on Jason for his breadth of interactive experience and his keen perception of where the industry is heading. He works closely with our key clients and is never too far from anything that goes on at the ‘barn. Jason…
Posted in user research, uxlab.

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