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In order to find out how children interact with our toothbrush prototype, we conducted a usability test. The test was a part of the prototype phase. We expected to find out what the children liked and what they didn’t like about the prototype. This information was important for us as it would affect our upcoming design choices.

Test persons
Three siblings constituted our test group. Two of them were girls at the age of nine and six years old and a boy at the age of five. Their mother was also present during the test. The test took place in the family’s house in Gothenburg between 5 pm to 7 pm on the 5th of December 2003.

Test crew
The test crew consisted of three people from the group where everyone had specific roles during the test. Johan Bergsten was the test leader and Jenny Dafgård the photographer. Pia Hammargren was observing and taking notes.

Preparations
None of us had significant experience of doing tests with children. In order to prepare ourselves we read articles related to the subject. One of the articles Children as Our Technology Design Partners (A. Druin, 1998), brings up things to think about when performing prototype tests with children. We learned, for example, that when you as a test crew spend time with the children, you should rather sit on your knees or lie on the floor to be on the children’s wavelength.

The articles also brings up that a there should always be more than one child in a test group where several grow ups are watching. A lonely child will feel suppressed in such an environment. Likewise one adult should never be included in a test group with several children. The group dynamic can then be similar to a school setting. This means that the children will expect the adult to take a leading role in the group and that the children’s own thoughts and ideas will be hard to catch. Druin consider the idealistic prototype testing setup to be a group of two or three adults and three to four children. With Druin’s recommendations in mind we decided that only three of us should participate, as our test group constituted three children. During the test, the three of us took different roles. Those were; test leader, photographer and observer.

Before the test took place we had heard from the children’s mother that they don’t like to brush their teeth. One of our goals was to see if we could change their opinions.

Three phases of the usability test:

PHASE 1
We showed the children the casings of two electrical toothbrushes. The casings are two alternatives to use in the coming implementation of our prototype. We also asked the children how they thought brushing could be made more fun.

Why? By showing the toothbrushes we wanted to find out if the children liked them and which of them they preferred. Based on the answers we can build our prototype on the most popular toothbrush. We also wanted to gather more ideas from the children on how we can make the tooth brushing more fun.

Result: The oldest and the youngest child preferred (one girl and one boy) the toothbrush with the white horse motive (see picture).

Design impacts:
The children’s choice of toothbrush influenced our selection of toothbrush for prototype implementation. But our choice was also dependent on how much space there was for fitting electronic components into the toothbrush. Luckily the children picked the most roomy toothbrush housing.

PHASE 2
We let the children try and explore our first prototype built on an experimental board with heavy wiring to a laptop.

Why? We wanted to se the children’s reaction and get comments on the toothbrush’s features and functions.

Result: The children’s test of the toothbrush gave a lot of laughs and the test persons seemed to really appreciate and enjoy trying it out. Just the music itself was fun for them but that the tempo was changing was at the beginning a bit hard for them to figure out. The six year old girl did not want to try the toothbrush but showed in her way that she liked it. She was dancing when the other children was trying the toothbrush.

Design impacts: We did the toothbrush more sensitive for tempo changes so the tempo would change more often.

PHASE 3
We let the children draw sketches of their dream toothbrushes.

Why? We had read that some children find it easier to express their ideas by painting instead of expressing their thoughts in words.
The paintings can show us what the children may have liked about our prototype and the electrical toothbrush housings. A mix of what they have experienced in combination with what they like with their ordinary toothbrushes may contribute to their sketches.

Result: Both the girls enjoyed painting and draw several drawings of toothbrushes they would like to have. Their brother was more into testing the prototype and was restless, but he had time to paint two drawings. The girls colored the drawings, wrote them names and described how they would sound. Some of the drawings we got were
a pig toothbrush, a dinosaur, a giraffe, a sun, a horse, a striped giraffe, a mouse and a purple toothbrush.