Parenting, pandemic and UX: Learning from design of experiences

by Silvia Mazzetta Date: 17-06-2020 pandemic covid19 parenting UX design

After the quarantine, many of us have had to adapt our work and personal routines to the new remote paradigm.

As a mother, I decided to share some things I've learned.

We've been in total quarantine for weeks. Weeks in which we close the office and live and work in the 4 walls of our home. We know that this is a way of taking care of ourselves in the face of a pandemic that is spreading without asking for forgiveness or permission. Little by little we're getting back to normal, the new normal. And while we are happy about it because it gives us a certain sense of freedom, in practice we know that it will not be so.

However, I think these days have been a lot of learning. Even more so for those of us who work in software development and web design. Not only because, we are in a constant process of testing digital services and products, which undoubtedly is an opportunity for hundreds of services that were digitized by force.

But also, because we have had to learn to be more empathetic, even to ourselves.

Clearly, this crisis situation should make us better UXers. And if we add motherhood/paternity, even more so.


Parents Adjust To Raising Children and UX in the context of a pandemic


What have I learned these days of confinement? To get to know my son in a different way and to understand better what he needs every day. My son, has many learning routines acquired in primary school that we had not seen before.

That has meant that we have had to better understand the way children learn. It is a constant process and where any situation can be a learning experience for them.

Reacting quickly and being creative has been key. It's almost like a daily exercise in co-designing a routine that is constantly changing. We devise, test and discard and improve the various activities.

We've had to research new forms of entertainment. Downloadable coloring drawings, painting techniques, puzzle types, new books. It's a constant search for issues that could make Paw Patrol's competition on Netflix. And while the algorithm of this streaming platform is as accurate as Google's results, more accurate should be the intuition as moms and dads about our sons and daughters.


The user's journey

Looking back at the experience with my son, one of the things that the quarantine raised for us was to combine a family routine with teleworking. In that context, all the states of mind that a user faces with a service, we have lived them with the expectations and demands of our child to these remote working parents.

And it is very difficult to manage that expectation, especially in the response times we may have when either of us is in a video conference or unable to resolve the urgent need quickly. There, our user's anxiety and frustration can start a complex process of service disappointment.


Permanent testing


We've found new ways to entertain each other. In that process, the online shopping has been of great help to supply us with new games and books, even though the first weeks the deliveries were more complex. Today, every time the bell rings, we may be on the verge of having a panorama to take advantage of the confinement.

I think we know more about planets and stars than we did a month ago, and we could be game evaluators and couriers at the same time. Obviously, from the smallest stores to the largest retailers have seen their stock and dispatch capacity overstretched. Even the most digitized or those that only sold on the Internet now have an explosion of new customers.

Several, especially the small ones, have taken over the distribution themselves, which is noticeable by the concern and speed. Others have relied on traditional services that have responded adequately to relocation restrictions. The biggest ones, despite all the cyber-days, at times seem not to have learned much.


Clear instructions


How do you explain to a child that their parents are working if they are at home? This is a situation that even the best Content Strategist is not prepared for. The biggest difficulty is that our user (here, my son) understands that if his parents are at home, it is synonymous with games and fun because the work is done at the office. The whole context tells you they're not working.

It's similar to situations where you read an instruction that contradicts what you're seeing on screen. We must make sure that when the operating conditions of something change, the usual procedure, even the steps for executing some action, this must be evident and well explained to the user. And, as always, the content must be clear, concise and empathic.

Now, the only difference is that I have to get a six-year-old user to understand that his parents are working or that the person on the screen is a customer and we don't know if he wants to be his friend.

We try to establish some indicators, give advance notice and reinforce when everything is working well. In a clear, empathetic way and trying not to leave room for doubts, I explained to him that if I am in front of the computer with more people or on the phone, he has to try not to interrupt me.

However, despite my attempts to be clear, my empathy tells me that he is a child and it is not so easy to understand everything that is happening in this context of a pandemic.

So... Did it work 100% of the time? No... not even 50%.


New uses, old devices


The first days of confinement, in the chat room of my son's course they started to share different applications and digital content. We tried several. We were able to access different booklets with activities related to language, mathematics, drawing and English.

The interesting thing is that the instructions are in audio format and it records the progress of each activity. We have also had to celebrate birthdays through the screen and participate in conversation sessions with school mates.

In both cases, rapid loss of concentration has been common.

Those who tell us that we have only 5 seconds to captivate a user are right. For younger children, staying focused on a remote experience is often confusing and boring.


Empathy comes first


How do we go on? Trying to be kind, not rushing, and trying to understand that we are all tired and getting used to this "new normal". For those of us working from home with sons and daughters, the challenge is complex and has good and bad days.

My recommendation is to try to understand it from there. These are new routines and trips that we must improve every day. Everyone has their own adaptation time and the learning curve does not have to be the same for everyone.

Try to give clear instructions, listen to that little user you don't know from time to time, and confirm that you understand what was asked of you, reinforcing as many times as necessary.

Now please, if you are the childless person in the meeting, stand up from the empathy towards the others. Don't question, or ask to mute computer microphones where there is a child on the other side.

Believe me, we are thousands of moms and dads trying to do our best work during this pandemic while still being good parents.

Family vector created by freepik -

by Silvia Mazzetta Date: 17-06-2020 pandemic covid19 parenting UX design hits : 3067  
Silvia Mazzetta

Silvia Mazzetta

Web Developer, Blogger, Creative Thinker, Social media enthusiast, Italian expat in Spain, mom of little 9 years old geek, founder of  @manoweb. A strong conceptual and creative thinker who has a keen interest in all things relate to the Internet. A technically savvy web developer, who has multiple  years of website design expertise behind her.  She turns conceptual ideas into highly creative visual digital products. 


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