Back in August 2016 I had the pleasure to welcome a brand new baby girl to our home. To make this clear from the beginning: I love this girl. She is simply awesome. But seriously, the user experience of a baby is crap!
Warning! This article may contain sarcasm, irony and clear signs of sleepless nights.
“The UX of a baby sucks!”
It all starts with the decision to get one of these cute little babies that you see in the tv spots all over the place. I know, there’s a shortcut of skipping the decision-step, but in my experience it was well-conceived.
One would guess that once you made the call Amazon Prime would step in, right? Well not at all. It takes months for the newborn to arrive. And it’s not as convenient as waiting for your new car to ship. I’m talking about months with A LOT of stress! I don’t want to go to deep into the details, but whoever designed that delivery flow definitely did not pass the test at UPS Headquarters!
To be bluntly honest, this was the worst part of the experience. Seriously. After all that time waiting for the day to come you don’t get a nice package wrapped in shiny paper. Not even close! For full clarification: I was only supporting in the room when it happened. My wonderful wife did all the heavy lifting! (And I’m quite sure that I would have canceled everything right there!) Unsurprisingly this section is therefore not followed by an unboxing video.
Besides all the negative I just wrote I have to admit that experiencing this part — as hard as it was — was definitely one of the most incredible things I’ve ever witnessed. Considering the UX you could therefore argue that it wasn’t that bad after all. At least looking back.
Once you get past all the delivery struggles you can finally hold the newborn in your arms. User Satisfaction Level: Maximum! I can’t even think of a single person who would not smile and cry, when looking in that brand new pair of eyes!
Before you think on-boarding is a breeze, hold on. It’s sadly not. The real problem is that they do not include a manual. There are several books available, that try to cover most frequent issues, but yours are different in every way possible. This new thing has only one notification-style. Crying. And it uses it for every kind of notification. Hungry: Crying. Sleepy: Crying. Bored: Crying. And so on … It takes weeks to finally understand the different nuances of crying.
“I wonder if the iPhone would have also succeeded with only one type of notification sound?”
Concerning the onboarding experience there’s plenty of work ahead to make this smooth. I’d suggest to start with a solid manual and clear notification center.
Initial Feature Set
After delivery the new baby is capable of literally nothing. And I am not talking about “the original iPhone has no features and not even 3G”. You wouldn’t believe it, but they can’t even breathe through their mouths at first.
So it get’s delivered without any initial features? Well not really. As mentioned in “Onboarding” it has a quite loud notification system, right from the start. Not a great one, but it’s there. In addition it can poop. Oh yes, it can poop!
Sadly again those features are not thought through. It seems as if the dev teams just did not talk to each other. It would be so great if there was a notification prior to pooping. But it only notifies you after wards. Luckily there are dozens of companies offering an accessories called diapers to catch the litter. More on that in “Cleaning”.
My suggestion is to stick with the small feature set and work on the quality and collaboration of these features. This will lead to less frustration on the user side and a much steeper adoption curve.
At delivery the baby needs to be charged nearly every 2–3 hours. What sounds quite normal to Android Wear users, can be quite a hard task. Charging happens through a variety of methods and in different steps.
- Adding charging liquid
This can happen through a small bottle filled with a special milk (comes separate) or through a quite stunning bio-port the mother supplies. Asking the WHO they advise to use the bio-port, if possible. But it turned out that the bio-port had different flaws that made the usage trickier than needed. It would produce to much, or less liquid then requested. And the baby would sometimes absorb to much of the liquid while charging, so that it had to disgorge the abundance afterwards. Just to name some of the things you could have to struggle with. Overall this technique really sophisticated and well thought-through, though! It works without any additional adapters and at nearly no running costs.
- Sleep Mode
Nearly every time after adding the charging-liquid the baby would immediately switch into sleep mode. This is great because it gives you time to take a deep breath and recharge yourself from time to time. According to my experience the baby’s sleep mode is not long enough to recharge yourself. So be aware of a lot of sleepless nights in the first weeks and months with the newborn!
Fun fact: Babies recharge in the most funny places. Our newborn loves to recharge in a baby carrier (comes separate) which is actually quite cool, but keeps me standing for the recharging period, because the sleep mode would end immediately when I stop moving my hips and sit down. Therefore I currently write this part standing with my laptop sitting on a grill in the middle of a forest. No joke!
Over the air upgrades
Now we are getting to the awesome part. The newborn features something that is best described as “Over The Air Upgrades”. While the initial feature set is small this changes over time. Automagically! It’s just like they wake up in the morning and learned new stuff. Pretty incredible, seriously! Remember the scene from “the Matrix” where Neo looks into the camera and says “I know Kung Fu”? It’s just like that!
Even though this upgrading process can absolutely be improved. There is no change log or whatsoever. You just learn from the upgrades when the newborn shows you her or his new “Kung Fu”-skills. Additionally the baby’s mood can be delicate when new upgrades arrive!
This is something that you know about before getting a baby, but to most of us it gets really clear just after the first weeks. There is a subscription model coming with the newborn and there is no money back guarantee. You get it — you keep it.
“I wonder if there would be a market for something like a baby trial period!?”
But lets stay realistic for a second. This is less a bug than a feature. Seriously. Once you see that cute little toothless smile for the first time you will not even think about any return policy!
Considering getting a baby? Let me tell you it’s quite a ride. From delivery to daily use it challenges the user on nearly every possible level. And worst of all the user experience is far from perfect. But to be honest: It’s still the best thing I ever did! 😍
Originally published at UX and the City.