Fisher-Price’s Commitment to User Testing

Fisher-Price is exploring concepts for a mobile parenting app with a focus on childhood development. The Smart Play design prototypes are key tools in the research and development process.

We all know Fisher-Price, the toy company that creates fun, safe and developmentally appropriate gear and toys for parents and children. But did you know that in 1961 they were also the first toymaker to have on-site toy testing of kids at play? 50+ years later, Fisher-Price hasn't changed in their commitment to user testing. They approached us to help create an app concept featuring childhood
development-focused activities for children, while exploring additional features to add a sense of wonder and joy to the product. We provided an outsider’s view for a fresh perspective on all the great work they had done. We worked hard to realize Fisher-Price’s vision by creating five feature-focused, interactive design prototypes for user testing and research.

From Features to Product

Moby-style kickoff and discovery meeting. Our team flew from Seattle to Buffalo to get some face-to-face time with the Fisher-Price team and solidify the relationship. Everyone was full of ideas; we left no notebook un-doodled, no whiteboard un-scribbled. Both teams generated a huge amount of ideas and features to explore as possible additions to the app.

After a very satisfying day of brainstorming and invigorating Buffalo wings, our team got to work sorting features and crafting concepts for the app. We created four distinct wireframe concepts: Activities, Progress, Journal and Celebration. Each concept emphasizes a different aspect of the app to explore what users would engage with the best.

Concept 1: 
Activities for Here and Now

The activity concept focused on answering the question “What can we do right now?” in a fun and delightful way. Play can happen anywhere and this interface lets parents explore a variety of developmentally appropriate activities for their current location. 

To add that little bit of wonder, the app interface subtly grows with the child. As more activities are completed in certain locations, the town responds by growing and changing. 

Concept 2: My Family Journal

How do we keep users enjoying the app daily for years at a time? How can we make storing and viewing memories a better and more compelling experience than Facebook? In this concept, we explored the idea of a shared Family Journal, where the parents can’t wait to post that cute drawing, video, story, or quote. Together, Mom and Dad can co-author their family’s story from a place that also lets them easily post to their social media.

Activities are opportunities to make memories. This concept not only helps parents figure out what to do next with their child, but also offers great suggestions on how best to capture those fleeting moments of childhood. Each activity is a potential journal entry and a detailed entry creation process is available to capture all those precious little details.

Concept 3: Organic Process

Through their childhood development app Learner Mosaic by Kidaptive, Fisher Price discovered parents love finding engaging activities to do with their child, but were sensitive to tracking their child’s progress. Parents did not want a qualitative report of their child’s progress, they would rather celebrate their child’s development without the accompanying judgement.

This made progress tracking of any sort tricky, but the team believed a balance could be reached. Fisher-Price gave us a running start by exploring some progress tracking concepts prior to our kickoff meeting. One of their favorite visual treatments was using a tree as an organic representation of the child’s growth. 

We loved this idea as well, and used the tree as the heart of this concept. On the home screen, the tree mirrors the child’s progress, and as the child grows, so does the tree. Scrolling up shows completed activities and ample opportunity for reminiscing, while scrolling down shows fun activities for play-time right now.

Concept 4: Celebration

Fisher-Price knows parents love playtime with their children. This concept explores how to positively incorporate a Fisher-Price app into the mix. It focuses on the parent’s participation and delivers rewards that celebrate parental involvement. 

Parents can earn fun, silly and and feel-good trophies based on which activities they choose. It uses gamification to increase parental engagement without tying it to child development. On the flip side, tracking for the child is limited to collecting in-app stickers, a gentle way to track progress without creating anxiety.

Feature Prototypes

After the wireframe exploration, we moved onto the part of the research and development process that was most important to Fisher-Price: user testing. We needed to find out the parents’ reaction to each feature. Which is the most useful and engaging? What invokes a sense of wonder and fun?

To get a real sense of what parents think, we created six standalone prototypes with a high level of design polish matching the existing Fisher-Price brand. Each walkthrough shows off the main user flow for its respective prototype. Users can have the device in hand and tap through the feature to see and feel how it works, the same tactile approach Fisher-Price has used to test toy prototypes since 1961.

— Journal —

The Journal prototypes explore how to record the everyday family moments. Both prototypes provide helpful suggestions for entries and guide the user through the creation process. Fisher-Price was interested in testing which approach parents would be drawn to. Family- or child-based? Structured or personalized? Co-authored or personal?

Scrapbook explores the journaling feature from a family perspective. Parents can keep a journal of their entire family in one place and co-author their family story with a partner. It’s not a blank journal, it’s a whole new way to share moments, celebrate achievements and remember all the little steps their children have taken. We offer intelligently timed suggestions and respectful reminders to help busy parents make the most of their journal.

This is the baby book parents want but never have time to make. We offer helpful suggestions to organize all those cute photos and memories into one great looking book. Add photos, videos, text, stickers and more. Everything can be moved and resized until it’s perfect. Parents can even get a professionally printed version of their child's storybook.

— Early Childhood Development Timeline —

The Early Childhood Development Timeline prototypes take a sympathetic approach to progress tracking. We know that parents are sensitive to anything that suggests their child is being graded. Both approaches take a “no judgement” stance that makes space for the unique growth of every child. One incorporates this into the Journaling feature, while the other is more overt and uses a sticker collection to represent milestones.

The storybook can also act as an early childhood development timeline allowing parents to keep up with their child's progress and create a storybook at the same time. Each suggested page contains a key developmental milestone, providing important information in a fun and friendly format. Each baby book adapts and responds to the unique child’s development, making this storybook the most personalized available.

Every child is unique and develops at their own pace. As the child grows we celebrate achievements with cute stickers. Parents learn about their child's progress without the anxiety of testing or reports. Each sticker is expertly designed to engage with the parent and the child. After a milestone is reached, we push notify the parent with helpful articles to prepare for their child’s next achievement.

— Activities —

The Activities prototypes explore how parents want to find activity suggestions. Would parents rather read articles with related activity suggestions? Or would they like a quick hit of suggestions with a fast and easy way to move through this material? These prototypes also allow parents to search and filter activities whenever they want.

Fisher-Price empowers parents to find the perfect activity for their family. This app contains a huge catalog of developmentally appropriate activities that are matched directly to their child. The child’s suggested activities are shown as a quick look card. Swipe to the right to skip the activity, or to the left to play. A long swipe to the left saves the activity for later. Sometimes parents already know exactly what they need, so we also made search filters for child, time, development category, location and effort level to get parents to the activity they want fast.

Get the best activities and tips directly from Fisher-Price’s team of early childhood development experts. Read articles parents can trust and rely on. Browse the huge selection of parenting articles and recommended activities or use the sophisticated search and filtering system. It guides parents through every step of an activity with video, photos and written instructions so they’re never at a loss for what to do next.

Memories Waiting to Happen

Working with everyone at Fisher-Price has been a great experience. We worked closely with them to realize their vision for the prototypes, implement their content and get everything ready for user testing. As Fisher-Price continues working on this app, they will be guided by their dedication to their customers. The Smart Play parenting app is a work-in-progress with a bright future ahead of it. We are overjoyed to have been part of the research and development process to this point and look forward to seeing how the app unfolds.


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