At User Insight we are always on the lookout for how we can help businesses make products and services that people, often of opposing behaviors and motivations, WANT to use. That is a big difference from creating usable products; just because someone can do something, doesn’t mean they want to. And just because someone tells you what they want, doesn’t mean that if you build it, it will work for them. It’s crucial to understand what motivates someone in order to make a product into something they seek out and want to use. With that in mind, there’s a topic making its way around the media lately creating a lot of controversy amongst parents and their style of raising children. You’ve probably overheard or experienced the controversy for yourself. As a UX Consultant and a new mom, interested in both topics, I wanted to see how we would solve this problem.
Humans have an innate desire to push the borders on what is right and what is “wrong”. But how do I know what is wrong if I don’t know what wrong is? This is especially found in children; the need to test the waters and experience danger. “Don’t touch the oven! It’s hot”, your mother would tell you or, “Stay where I can see you, ok?,” yet we as children would turn away and either do the very thing they told us not to or instantly feel the need to run and play just outside of their eyesight.
I had the privilege of growing up in the country and have fond memories of spending hours lost outside in an untapped world filled with dangerous obstacles and wild animals (literally; livestock, chickens, coyotes, the list goes on). But children today are having less and less of the unknown to explore as they are presented with very unintimidating play environments and nearly no independence of their own.
One of the controversial suggestions is for more play environments called “Adventure Playgrounds”. Do not confuse these playgrounds for the assumed colorful and fully viewable playgrounds you know in your neighborhood filled with soft rubber mulch and a simple slide. They are play environments that are most of today’s parent’s worst nightmare.
Here’s a list of just a few of the “playground activities”:
- Swings that stretch over creeks of water where you can choose to hold on and swing back or let go and jump on to the other side of the creek. The other option is if you fail, you fall in the water.
- Rickety, unfinished wooden structures – yet children have access to hammers and nails to update and secure the structure if desired.
- Supplies to make a fire.
- High obstacles to climb up.
- “Junk” to look through and re-purpose (some are even referring to these environments as “Junk Yards”).
Hanna Rosin, the author of The Overprotected Kid says, “When kids do things that feel risky on a playground, it allows them to conquer a fear and gain independence.”
The conundrum of solving for opposing wants is a common struggle with products and services. For example, how do you please two visitors at a restaurant where one visitor wants to go in to the restaurant while the other refuses to get out of their car? You can’t prioritize one visitor over the other. To appeal to both you will need a full service restaurant with the addition of a drive through window.
At User Insight we spend time talking to people to understand why they want something a certain way so we can build solutions that truly address their needs. If we revisit the list of playground activities and apply how we would address the two opposing users involved, we would first sit down and talk with both the child and the parent separately.
For example, bullet item #3, “supplies to make a fire”. Sample point of view collected from users:
Parent’s point of view – My child can’t play with fire! They don’t know the first thing about fire safety and will get hurt!
Child’s point of view – This fire stuff is so cool! I want to experience this beautiful, so-called “dangerous” flame – it is something new and exciting! What’s the worst that could happen?
After hearing and understanding both sides, we can then create solutions to solve both needs:
For the parents – Make parents feel comfortable by providing a Fire Marshal to first give a fire safety demonstration and keep fire extinguishers close by for children to fix their mistake if one arises. Help them understand that the experience is giving their child a chance to grow in a safe environment. (Marshal wouldn’t interfere unless there was dire need)
For the children – Allow them complete freedom to go experience creating and extinguishing a fire without feeling like parents are hovering. They can apply what they’ve learned about fire safety to their experience and truly conquer fear while gaining independence.
This is just one fictional example of how we at User Insight would address a situation with opposing perspectives and come out with both parties feeling satisfied and wanting to experience an environment, after all, what mom doesn’t want their child to be strong and independent? By listening and then building solutions, we create independence in users and successful services for diverse markets.
Want to learn more about Adventure Playgrounds? Believe it or not, this is an idea that has been around for quite some time and has only recently had a resurgence in the media.
According to the University of Oregon, “The concept for adventure playgrounds originated in postwar Europe, after a playground designer found that children had more fun with the trash and rubble left behind by bombings -inventing their own toys and playing with them- than on the conventional equipment of swings and slides.”
Watch this YouTube video Narrated by John Snagge who was a well-known voice talent in the UK, working as a newsreader for BBC Radio.