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Finley with iPadThe iPad is being promoted as a product for all the family, so how does it perform against standard usability criteria when the user is just 17 months old?

Having recently spent a fortnight with my young grandson, Finley, in the USA, we offered to share our experience of the iPad as a serious business tool for toddlers with the UK Usability Professionals Association at their recent PechaKucha Night

This format was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as a format for young designers to show their work, each presentation being 20 slides each lasting 20 seconds. (Our average age is 32, so we count as young.)

Of course, part of the point of the event is to be light-hearted and entertaining (and I hope we were) but we did have a serious point to make. Toddlers are very serious about two tasks – exploring their world and eating. The iPad is great for the first, and survives the consequences of the second (smooth, wipe-clean surfaces).

Inevitably, I referred to the ISO 9241-11 concept of usability in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Finley, as the user, elaborated on these:

  • Effective:  lots of effective apps to explore.
  • Efficient: a natural interface which is efficient for young hands and motor skills.
  • Satisfaction: it's fun.

We found the iPad did well on all three factors with thousands of really great apps for kids (and some not so great but cheap enough not to be a problem. 

Finley particularly likes ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ from DuckDuckMoose.com which is full of interactive features that baffle his grandpa, but not him (we used to sing it to his mum as Incy Wincy Spider but it’s recognisable none the less).

We both have a favourite drawing app which bristles with options. It’s called Drawing Pad from TouchScreenPreSchoolGames.com. At the moment, ‘stickers’ are Finley’s preferred medium and the multi-touch interface is a joy even with small gooey fingers.

Less good, some of the apps are very American (I expect he may develop a transatlantic twang) and as Jakob Nielsen pointed out, there are inconsistencies between apps. 

As toddlers do, he particularly likes pressing the home button (the only button on the top) and seeing how nervous grandpa becomes when he explores my email! I’d like to be able to lock it so I know he can’t send his drawings to my clients.

But as a device which encourages exploration, exhibits endless patience (even at 4am in the morning, good old jet lag) and survives sticky fingers, we believe the iPad is a serious business tool for toddlers. I have actually found it useful too, but that’s another article.

Ipad for kids View more presentations from System Concepts Ltd.
Tom Stewart

Published 29 July, 2010 by Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart is Executive Chairman at System Concepts, and a guest blogger at Econsultancy. System Concepts can be followed on Twitter here, and Tom is also on Google+.

35 more posts from this author

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Jenni

Never mind about a business tool for toddlers - it's a better business tool for cats! The videos on YouTube are great :D

over 6 years ago

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Ruth Lopardo

At a recent networking meeting for local mums in business, we all duly handed our iPhones over to our assorted toddlers to keep them entertained whilst we talked.  The interface is so intuitive, it was astounding to see a dozen kids, most of whom couldn't walk or talk and none of whom can control their bowels easily and skilfully navigate to their favourite apps, even showing and sharing with each other.

If someone could find a way to explain to said toddlers why the BBC iPlayer works using the WiFi connection at home but not on standard connection when out and about, that would be fab thank you.

over 6 years ago

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart, Founder at System Concepts

Hi Ruth, it is amazing just how little fingers can use the multitouch interface. As you point out, the iPhone also has lots of kids apps (many work on both platforms) and in some ways the iPhone is a better size for kids. I think the iPad' s killer feature is that it is big enough to share the experience (for example with grandpa whose eyesight is not what it was) and the display technology means that it is visible from a much wider angle of view. What are these kids going to regard as normal stuff when they are adults?

over 6 years ago

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Ruth Lopardo

They'll certainly be a very tech-savvy generation, and no doubt very inventive and fluid in their thinking.

Point taken about the iPad, Tom.  You make a desirable gadget sound even more indispensable.

over 6 years ago

Tom Stewart

Tom Stewart, Founder at System Concepts

Bangalow, you will not be surprised to learn that I was able to buy an overpriced screen protector and rubber case so I am quite relaxed when my grandsons play with it. In fact, my son's wife noticed that I was significantly more relaxed when Ethan (slightly older grandson at 20 months) played with the iPad than when his father played with it. As a mac sceptic, he has a tendency to try to test products and install things I don't want. Nonetheless, the iPad survived use by both generations. I am about to go to the US on business and my only problem is that my wife will miss it. I don't think we are quite ready to be a two iPad famaily yet (maybe when the second generation one comes out).

over 6 years ago

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Chris

My five month and five year old nephews both love to play with it. The five year old is fascinated by one of the pond apps and will literally spend hours making splashing sounds and ripples while chasing fish. The five month old is still in bashing mode so the ipad has be held but even he will happily plink-plonk on a piano app.

over 6 years ago

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