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Playblox helps new dads connect with their infants and make meaningful contributions to their development.

It provides them with activities that help develop their child's communication skills, encourages early childhood success, and promote parent-child bonding.

Context

Most Canadian dads aren't active in infant care, even though there is overwhelming evidence that it’s good for them, their children, and their households. This is partly because there isn't a social expectation that they participate, they lack experience and confidence, and they don't understand the value of their contributions.

Challenge

How might we design a product that encourages dads to participate in infant care by building their confidence as parents and highlighting the value of their contributions to their child's success?

Discovery

I interviewed six new parents and found that all of the dads were trying to help with infant care, but none felt they were making meaningful contributions to their child's well-being.

To address this need, I researched infant development theory and decided to design a solution around Infant Communication Development (ICD). ICD has proven impacts on early childhood success, established milestones that help parents observe infant development, and the ability to encourage parent-child bonding. By engaging with ICD, my users would make a meaningful contribution to their child's well-being and build their confidence as parents.

Activities

Activities

Problem
My users wanted to spend quality time with their newborns but weren't sure how because of their limited experience with infants.

Solution
Scientifically driven audio activities help users engage with their newborns and encourage their development. They allow users to focus on their babies and listen for prompts instead of looking at their phones.

Task Flows

Problem
My users are busy and tired and need their hands free to hold everything together.

Solution
Short task flows allow users to access activities within three interactions and stay hands-on with their infants. In future iterations, I would like to explore this same concept using a voice assistant to create a hands-free solution.

Milestones

Problem
Infant development is a subtle process that my users were unfamiliar with. They were at risk of missing the signs that their child was growing and that they were contributing to that growth.

Solution
The milestone tracker highlights the nuanced changes newborns experience as they grow. This helps users become more observant and know that their efforts are contributing to their child's development.

Trophyroom

Trophy Room

Problem
My users lacked confidence in their roles as parents and didn't feel like their efforts were valuable.

Solution
The trophy room allows users to celebrate their efforts and view their family as a team. It prompts them to take photos with their child at major milestones and rewards them for engaging with the app.

Outcomes

Of the six parents I interviewed at the start of the project, five thought it would be valuable for their family. All of the dads said they would use it regularly if it helped them become more aware of their child's development.

I also spoke to two public health experts with experience in parental education who thought the concept was tremendously valuable and had market potential.

Reflection

User-centred and user-lead

Listening to my users and integrating their feedback produced my best results. Users provided me with inspiration, knowledge, and direction. My job was to use their input and create a solution that met their needs and exceeded their imaginations.

Prepare for unchecked assumptions

Throughout the project, I uncovered many of my unchecked assumptions, even though I had tried to reflect on them before starting the project. It forced me to be flexible, revisit old content, and alter course, but I'll spend more time digging into my assumptions moving forward.

Moving forward

One idea I would love to explore is using a voice assistant to create an entirely hands-free experience. I think this type of solution would best address my users needs and lifestyles.

Full Process

Wouldn't it be nice if design was as straightforward as the summary above? This was an 11-week project full of surprises. I followed a double-diamond process but supplemented it with additional research, testing, and iteration along the way.

Review my full process below. Hic sunt dracones.

Research I

Problem Space Selection

I started my research investigating infant care and parenting classes. I chose this problem space because parenting has always been hard, and we're always looking to improve the experience. I also knew there were opportunities to create new digital solutions because the pandemic has decreased access to in-person parenting resources.

Secondary Research

I investigated the publicly offered parenting resources affected by the pandemic and prevailing infant development theories to build my understanding of the problem space and find design opportunities. I decided to focus on Infant Communication Development (ICD) because of its proven impacts on early childhood success, established milestones, and ability to encourage parent-child bonding.

Encouraging bonding was the most compelling reason to focus on ICD because it speaks to a higher user desire. It presented the opportunity to create something that offered both functional and emotional value for users. 

I wrote a How Might We Statement to define my project direction.

How Might We

How might we help new parents learn about infant communication so they can support their child’s development and create stronger bonds with them?

Research II

User Interviews

I conducted six interviews with new and expecting parents to understand their needs and challenges. I wanted to learn what their daily lives looked like, whether they valued infant development theory, and where there were opportunities for new solutions. Through these interviews, I learned a lot and uncovered some unchecked assumptions. 

Process Failure

I didn't source an appropriately diverse group of interviewees and missed an opportunity to gather meaningful insights about my potential users. This undoubtedly biased my results and the quality of my design.

Interview Findings

Regardless of my imperfect process, I learned a lot from my interviews. These findings influenced my design:

  • Parents are busy and tired
  • They spent more time on prenatal learning than development
  • They wanted solutions that made learning easy and fun
  • Moms bonded with their infants more easily than the dads
  • Dads were less knowledgeable about infant care than their partners
  • Dads tracked their child's in utero development as a means to connect with them
  • Dads looked for opportunities to define their roles as parents 

Insights

My interviews revealed that my primary users were new dads. They were less confident in their roles and needed more support. I also discovered that my users didn't have the energy to learn about infant development theory. They wanted to spend their time making sure their infants were getting the enrichment they needed, not learning the science behind it. 

My interviews shifted my focus, so I revised my How Might We statement.

How Might We

How might we design a fun and educational tool to help new dads bond with their infants while facilitating their child’s language development?

Research III

Validating Research

I found evidence that it is beneficial for children, families, and fathers when dads participate in infant care. I also discovered that Canadian fathers are not significant participants in infant care and that social barriers are partially to blame.

Gendered boys aren't raised to be parents how gendered girls are, meaning most men are unprepared for fatherhood. This supported my users' feelings of inadequacy and their drive to define their roles as parents.

I wanted to see if the market reflected this gendered divide, so I did a competitor analysis of existing parenting apps.

Competitor Analysis

I reviewed 17 apps designed for new parents and made three important discoveries that supported my user interviews and design direction.

  1. Most of the apps were designed for parents in general, but none of them were explicitly for dads.

  2. All of the infant care apps assumed users had a base-level of parenting knowledge, something my users struggled with.

  3. None of the infant care apps centred on activities for development, something my users had expressed interest in.

Synthesis

Personas

I synthesized my research and interview findings into a persona to highlight user needs and ground my design process.

Lawrence is an exhausted new dad who participates in infant care but doesn't feel like he's making a meaningful contribution. Before becoming a parent, he daydreamed about playing with his child, but he never imagined interacting with an infant. Now he's realizing how unfamiliar and inexperienced he is with babies. Kenneth wants the best for his child, and he wants to be a great dad.

User Stories

To determine what functionality would address Kenneth's pain points, I wrote 30 user stories encompassing his high-level aspirations and specific needs. I drew four insights from these stories that drove design development and then revised my How Might We to reflect them.

  1. Short task flows
    Users wanted to be hands-off from their phones and hands-on with their infants and limit their child's peripheral screen exposure.

  2. Audio activities
    The hands-off requirement inspired me to build my solution around audio activities instead of video or text.

  3. Developmental tracking
    Users wanted help tracking their child’s development, but they didn’t want large amounts of information.

  4. Confidence
    All of the dads needed a voice to champion their efforts and encourage them to keep trying.

How Might We 

How might we design a solution for new dads that helps them build confidence, interact with their infants while supporting their child's language development?

Development

Information Architecture

My users needed an efficient solution, so I created a site map where users could start activities within three interactions and applied the same principle to other tasks.

Architecture

Sketches

Following this blueprint, I brainstormed ideas for my task flow. The entire exercise was essential for my process, but the orange markers highlight the ideas that had the greatest impact on the final design.

Sketches
Sketches-3

Lo-fi Wireframes

Building on my sketches, I created lo-fi wireframes and a prototype in Figma. I conducted three rounds of usability testing, with five participants per round, and revised the design based on their feedback.

These are the major revisions I made to my primary task flow.

Revisions4

Getting Lost

Testers were confused by the navigation bar in my first prototype. The icons I created weren't communicating their purpose. It took four rounds of iteration and feedback to arrive at my final design.

Aesthetics

Colour

I started developing Playblox's visual identity by creating its palette. I wanted to break from the visual tradition of using pale pink and blue for baby products and the binary gender construct it promotes.

My users are modern dads with modern perspectives. While blue and pink would probably communicate “baby” to them, it might not feel like their baby or the experience they’re trying to provide for their child.

To create a colour palette that reflected my user’s views and was culturally resonant, I selected a set of pastel hues with high values and low saturation, similar to pale pink and blue but without the baggage.  

Palette

Visuals

I took inspiration from woodblock toys and the Memphis Design movement for the project's visual identity.

Building blocks were a natural reference because they are associated with play, and “building blocks” is often used in development theory. They are symbolic of the design’s primary function in that they foster infant development through play.

I took inspiration from Memphis Design because its playful colours and patterns capture childlike whimsy through an adult gaze. It reflects the experience of my users as they reconnect with childhood through their newborns.

Inspo-2

Application

After defining my aesthetic, I applied it to my wireframes. These screens track the design's development from the first prototype to the current iteration. The final design is welcoming, playful, and functional.

Thanks for reviewing my case study!

I think good design is essential for good living, and I love working with people who share that sentiment.

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