The first few months of raising my son, I was overwhelmed. I questioned myself whether I still could or wanted to do professional work. My job as a User Experience (UX) consultant in essence is understanding human needs and exploring solutions to answer those needs. It wasn’t clear at the beginning, but as I went along the journey of parenthood, I realized that my roles at home and at work feed into each other.
“You’re gonna enjoy observing little human!” told a UX fellow who already had children when I was still expecting. That happened to be true, though many times understanding kids could be frustrating.
People don’t always know what they want. Even when they do, they may not express it clearly. With little children, they literally can’t articulate their wants and needs. When my son cries “I want this,” I probe him to be more specific, “What do you want? This- chocolate milk?”. Repeat a dozen times until he nods to a wooden puzzle.
Similarly in user research, I often bring stimuli to trigger particular area of discussion with the participant. People may feel awkward to describe how they spend their money, so we use lego blocks and simple drawing on a paper. We ask them to simulate how they divide portions of their money (the lego blocks) to each category of expenditure drawn on the paper, such as food, travel, education, etc. Through the exercise, we can explore how people think about their current spending habit and what they think would be the ideal.
UX design process enforces testing out solution as early as possible, as often as possible. The way to create a great product is to start with a first draft, get feedback then improve it continuously. However, the habit of showing work in progress instead of polished product might not come naturally to some people.
Parenthood forces me to exercise delivering solution quickly. My son enjoys taking a bath that he often refuses to dry his body and put on his clothes. But I can’t let him in the water for too long, right? In the beginning I’d just lift him up and struggle to clothe him while he was crying and fighting his way out. Over time I tried out several approach until we found out what he needs is to feel in control. The most recent method that has been working well is I let him decide, “Do you want to finish right now or after the water dries out?” as I pull out the bath plug.
A solution works until users no longer find it relevant. Soon enough my son will figure out how the bath plug works and I have to think of a new way to get him out of the bath. Time flies so fast with growing kids, indeed.
How about users? It’s belittling if we think users don’t evolve over time. We could have designed a lunch catering service for full-time employees who stayed at the office 9to6, Monday to Friday. As more companies allow flexible time and even remote working, lunch delivered to the office desk everyday at 11 am probably doesn’t cut it anymore. How might we cater lunch for employees with flexible time and location?
Communicating with stakeholders
Coming up with the ideal solution is not the end goal. The challenge that follows later is how to implement the solution. This requires close alliance with stakeholders. Say we’ve designed a hospital appointment system that helps patients register and track doctor’s queue. It won’t work if the hospital IT department refuses to invest in new infrastructure or if the doctors stick to traditional first-come-first-served by physical attendance.
Parenthood is not much different, as “it takes a village to raise a child.” My husband and I have agreed on when to allow and when to divert screen time for our son. To establish this approach, we need to involve everyone who’s connected with him: grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. Caretakers and friends at the daycare play significant roles as well, since they interact with him on a daily basis.
Parenting is providing onboarding experience
UX uses the term ‘onboarding’ to refer to the moment when people use a product for the first time, and we support them to learn about the product and what they can do with it. We aim for enjoyable first time experience so they will continue using the product. Some popular onboarding methods include intro screens, video tutorial, and chatbot.
Conceptually, parents onboard their children into life. We prepare them with values, skills and knowledge so eventually they can lead their own life. It applies to any case that onboarding is never the ultimate goal. We use Traveloka not to learn about how to use Traveloka, but to book flight tickets. Likewise, parenting is less about the parents, but more about the children and how to bring out the best in them. We provide handholding until they’re confident to be on their own. Yet it doesn’t mean we’ll leave them off completely at some point. As the onboarding role subsides, the role of help desk takes more significant part. Whenever our children need guidance, we’ll be ready to assist just like trustworthy customer service.
Through my journey as a UX consultant and as a parent, I learned that we can always borrow learnings from one field then apply them in a different context. Would love to hear from your own experience as well!
UX fellows: How do you relate UX with your personal life?
Parents: How do you relate your profession with parenthood?