LeoLaix: User Research Internship
An app that assists children aged 3 to 8 in learning English
UX research / LX research / Usability Testing / Creative Workshops etc.
About the Product
Leolaix strives to assist children aged 3 to 8 in learning English in an easy but engaging way. Laix Phonics is the first (and yet, the only) module introduced to the market. It will be in APP store on 12.20.
As the only user researcher (intern) in the UX team, I inform and evaluate design, and suggest design solutions that make the interaction and learning experience more pleasant, engaging and rewarding.
Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis
Jing Yao (internship supervisor, IxD)
& the rest of the design team
Louise Lin (PM)
Qiao (former operation lead)
Laix.inc is a leading educational technology company in China that is working on developing a new mobile app to assist children aged 3-8 in learning English. The app “Leo likes English” features cartoon movies and interaction games. During my 6-month internship at Laix.inc as a user researcher, I involved in four product iteration cycles that brought the product from version 0.1 to version 1.3.
Below is our product design workflow. I will present in this portfolio four studies that involved various user research methods.
Project 1: ✍️ Understanding parents
Using interviews and surveys to understand parents’ expectations toward English learning and their purchase behavior, and to empathize with parents
Project 2: 🎮 Concept testing of game design proposals
Using design workshop to ideate and evaluate game design proposals that promote learning efficiency and enjoyment
Project 3: 🔎 Usability Testing
Identify current usability challenges and give recommendations on design iteration
Project 4: 🧒 Learning content Testing
Evaluate how children perceive our learning materials
Eventually, my work contributed to a more engaging learning and user experience.
Research 1: Understanding Parents
Understand how English education takes place at home
Understand parents’ expectations toward English education
Understand parents’ purchasing behavior
Empathize with our users and align strategies and features that target the needs of different user groups
We conducted 12 semi-structured interviews remotely. Since we did not have priori hypotheses regarding our main topics, we chose to use an exploratory method—the interview. Parents were recruited from social media.
After we received preliminary results from the interviews, we surveyed approximately 140 parents to validate interview findings. We surveyed them about their living region, occupation, expectation toward English, their child’s English expertise levels, their child’s ages etc.
We created three pairs of personas to represent different families’ goals in English learning. We included in our personas children’s learning habits and skills. We also included parents’ needs, frustrations, educational beliefs and purchasing behaviors in searching for English learning products.
Spoken English is parents’ main expectation regarding English education.
Parents expect their children to have a good command of spoken English. In a way, this is the ultimate goal for parents to purchase English learning products. This expectation is the same for parents whose children are of different age groups.
Providing an English learning environment by using different methods altogether.
Parents use two or three different methods to help their children learn English. They believe by using various methods, they can provide an immersive English-learning environment for their children. That is to speak, their main attitude toward private tutors and online video courses is: I want them both.
Parents are seeking products that children can play by themselves.
Parents are seeking products that children are able to play by themselves. Many families are undergoing a transition from offline to online to avoid the long transfer time to send their children to offline tutoring schools. The reason behind this might be a sense of exhaustion from intensive parenting. It is also because they want to cultivate independence in the children.
Unlike other subjects, English is perceived as a must-have skill
Parents think that English is a must-have skill. However, they can not back their arguments with solid reasoning. English distinguishes itself from other school subjects as it is “a must-have skill” and hence receives the top priority in children’s education.
Research 2: Concept Testing of Game Design Proposals
Ideate and evaluate game design proposals that promote learning efficiency and enjoyment.
My research promoted a more engaging learning experience while stimulated children’ interests in learning English. It also presented a more preferable learning outcome that added to business value because parents were eager to see children’s progress.
I first engaged in discussions with content developers about techniques used in classrooms to promote learning.
Based on the techniques, I then brainstormed several design solutions with the UX designer.
Research method design
At first, I was not sure how can we ensure that the testing materials are understandable to children aged 3-8. Then, I did a literature review on prototype testing with children. The literature review revealed that even though the interface has been simplified to a paper prototype, children aged 7-11 could interact with them and even rate the paper prototypes to be more aesthetics than functional iPad prototypes (Sim, Horton, & McKnight, 2016). For children aged below 7, they are also able to play with low-fidelity paper prototypes though they might prefer medium-fidelity ones (i.e., paper circuitry; Hershman, Nazare, Qi, Saveski, Roy, & Resnick, 2018).
Inspired by the research findings, we decided to adopt medium-fidelity prototypes: colorful paper prototypes with removable buttons. I also created interaction rules for the prototypes in Sketch.
I used a revised version the Fun-Sorter to measure comparative fun among the design proposals. Six picture cards of the design proposals were placed on the table. The child was asked to point out “the most fun” one. The picture card being pointed out was removed from the table. Afterwards, the child was asked to point out “the worst” one among the remaining five cards till all cards were sorted.
The number of words the child was willing to learn using a specific method was used to measure learning efficiency.
The unexpected feedback method was the most successful one and was adopted in further game design. This method had the highest learning efficiency and enjoyment.
Research 3: Usability Test
Identify usability challenges in the current version and give recommendations on design.
Usability tests help the product becomes more useful, error-less and pleasant. Providing children with more smooth UX also adds to business value.
Designing for children can be challenging as children might behave in unexpected ways that fall outside common UX practices. Usability tests help us identify both general and age-specific usability issues. We conducted both in-situ tests and remote tests to observe children in both controlled and natural settings.
Six children from a local daycare center were tested during the in-situ usability tests. Six children from different provinces in China were tested by their parents remotely. During remote tests, we asked the parents to record children together with a screen.
Main Usability Issues
Research 4: Learning Content Testing
Evaluate how children perceive our learning materials.
The research assists in revising on the learning materials, which presents children with more engaging and pleasant experience.
We analyzed children’s learning experience using the same video recorded in the above-mentioned usability sessions (in-situ and remote). We coded the video scene by scene (frowns, verbatim, lost of attention etc.)
I created a journey map to illustrate the ups and downs during a learning session.
Children have limited attention span.
Children began to lost attention at about 7 to 10 minutes of the video. They started to mind-wander after a period of time. Some rolled over on the ground, others looked around or tried to talk with the researcher. They also lost interests in responding to questions after answering 2-4 questions of the same type. Their response times to the questions were also longer as time passed.
However, they do better than their parents think.
Though children have limited attention span, they chose to watch the whole learning materials instead of quitting. This was a strong indication that children enjoyed our learning materials.
On the other hand, the observation contradicted with parents’ reports that children could not finish watching the video. The contradiction demonstrated that parents could underestimate their children’s interests and abilities to absorb new information.
Children are attracted by unusual objects or those with strong visual stimulation.
Children like to see weird things happening. For instance, they became excited when seeing a large tree being cut off, another tree talking or a book sparkling.
Children like chants and chants are perfect for parent-children interaction.
Chants are naturally attractive to children. Some children tried to sing along the chant though they can only pronounce some syllabuses. Meanwhile, we observed in the remote usability tests that some parents encouraged children to follow the chant. Parents started to hum the chant, or they advised to the child to “try singing along”.
In the process of user research, I was constantly amazed at how nature for kids to learn English and practice speaking. As technology can become a double-edged sword, we future designers and researchers must stick to a thorough understanding of learning and development to ensure that the education product truly helps children grow, instead of lowers their motivation with low-quality learning materials and badly designed UX.
Meanwhile, I have learned a lot from the brainstorming sessions. When redesigning an experience, UX designer, user researcher and PM may all have different angles. However, it is indeed these different perspectives that together make a solution which combines appealing visual design, smooth task flow, user needs, and business insights.