KORA, a low-cost orthosis, aims to train children’s walking behavior using a mobile application.
But how might we develop an app that empowers children to positively change their walking pattern in a fun and engaging way?
In collaboration with interdisciplinary minds, we developed an app that enables children aged 3-6 years to train their movement and walking behavior using different games.
The games include multiple walking patterns, fun and engaging characters all in a colorful and simple visual design.
First of all, we must accept that we as designers are not qualified to design for children. Kids are a unique user group that is difficult to evaluate without professional experience or knowledge. So how does designing for children differ compared to designing for adults?
Our qualitative interviews with interdisciplinary experts, such as childcare workers, physicians and physical therapists yielded the following insights:
Our findings led to the development of six games with different movement patterns (e.g. squatting, sneaking, jumping). These games not only allow children to train their muscles but also offer a greater variety.
The design is colorful, simplified, and therefore age-appropriate. It strongly highlights the main characters so that their actions and reactions are easy to follow.
Children must first understand the game’s rules to play, have fun and achieve the best therapeutic effect. For this purpose, we created Olaf, the friendly KORA mascot, who guides children through the tutorials and explains the rules and movements. Olaf demonstrates the movements visually so the children can imitate them regardless of their language skills.
The game itself consists of a starting point (the balloon wants to fly higher), a goal (make the balloon fly as high as possible), and the desired movement to reach the goal (jump like a frog to make the balloon fly higher).
We know theoretically how to design for children and have even developed games based on our research. However, the reality can be quite different. How do we know if kids will actually like our product?
To find out what kids like or dislike about our games, we played the games with four children aged 4-9 years, split equally between girls and boys, in a familiar environment, such as their own home or grandparents’ house. They were played in a different order so that the results would not be affected by the child’s loss of concentration or energy level.
No 4-year-old is like a 9-year-old, and even within their own age group, not all children are the same. So how can we find common ground among these differences? Generally, older children had a higher attention span and were more likely to play all six games, while the younger ones stopped after three. However, when younger children really liked a game, they were motivated to play it with no end in sight.
Although all the children understood and imitated the tutorials, the older children understood them much faster and were able to replicate them more accurately. Older children got bored quickly if the required movements were too easy as their development is more advanced, e.g., it was easier for them to keep their balance. Therefore, they wanted to move on to the next game.
-> Interested in Kid’s Experience? You can read more about how to design for children in my Play for Health Guideline