"Friend Factory" an App That Teaches Anxious Kids Social Skills To Make Friends
Project Summary
I took on the task of helping children aged 4-8 overcome the social anxiety that the pandemic had caused by designing an app that would teach them social skills for various scenarios they may encounter with their friends.

To ensure that the app was tailored to the specific needs of the target audience, I conducted extensive user research. This included interviewing both children and their parents to gain a better understanding of their concerns and needs. I then used the information gathered from the interviews to create affinity diagrams, which helped me identify patterns and common themes.

Based on the research, I created user personas, which are fictional representations of the target users, to help guide the design process. I then analyzed the data to identify any potential pain points or areas that needed improvement.
With this information in hand, I moved on to the design phase. I was responsible for the complete design of the app, including its layout, user interface, and overall user experience.

To ensure that the app was user-friendly and easy to navigate, I conducted usability testing, which involved getting feedback from a small group of users on the app's functionality and ease of use.

Once the design was finalized, I created a prototype of the app, which was used for further testing and to gather feedback from potential users.

Outcome Statement
A designed social skills, along with pretend play game app that teaches kids how to overcome their social anxiety in different scenarios. It reduced kids anxiety and gave them confidence to interact with their peers.
Problem Statement
The isolation from the pandemic hit kids hard and affected their mental health. Social anxiety increased among young kids which affected their ability to build friendships and play with their peers.
User and Needs
Helping anxious kids age 4-8 build friendships through learning social skills
The ongoing pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in isolation and social anxiety among children, as a result of limited opportunities for interaction with their peers. This lack of socialization has caused emotional distress and negatively impacted their ability to confidently interact with other children their age.

My app addresses this issue by providing children with tools and resources to learn and practice social skills through engaging and interactive pretend play scenarios. Additionally, the app keeps parents informed of their child's progress and development through regular email updates. This allows parents to be aware of their child's progress and to be able to support them in their socialization journey.
My role in the project
As a user experience designer and researcher, I planned, and interviewed kids and their parents; created affinity diagrams, persona, conducted data analysis and design requirements, created and designed the user interface of the app by creating wireframes, and prototyping and usability testing.
Constraints and Process
Constraints
It was difficult to get information from young kids during the interview process as they were anxious and very sensitive. Some got overwhelmed by the topic and wanted to stop to get their reward. So I switched my process to interviewing both parents and kids back to back to get as much information as possible for my research.
The Process
I spent several days actively reaching out to mothers' groups on Facebook, submitting requests to interview young children between the ages of 4-8. The response was overwhelmingly high, which not only fulfilled my desired number of participants, but also highlighted the significant impact that the pandemic has had on both children and their parents.

After securing the desired number of participants, I shifted my focus to preparing the necessary consent forms for both parents and children. I dedicated a significant amount of time researching the effects of social anxiety on young children in the aftermath of the pandemic. This research helped inform the development of a series of targeted questions that I could ask both parents and children during the interview process. The goal of these questions was to gain insight into their experiences and struggles during the pandemic, and to identify any areas where additional support or resources may be needed.

Phase 1: Planning
Phase 2: Interviewing
During the interviews, the children displayed a high level of enthusiasm and engagement when discussing the topics. Many of them opened up about their personal struggles with shyness and difficulty interacting with their peers. One common theme that emerged from their responses was a desire to feel safe and secure when approaching other children, as well as a need for guidance on how to navigate different social situations. This suggests that many of these children may have been struggling with social anxiety, and that they would benefit from additional support and resources to help them develop the skills and confidence needed to successfully interact with their peers.
I also conducted interviews with parents to gather information about the strategies and resources they have used to support their children during the pandemic. Each parent I spoke with expressed a desire for an app that could provide children with interactive scenarios that simulate real-life social interactions, and that would allow them to practice and develop their social skills. Additionally, all of the parents I interviewed requested to be kept informed of their child's progress as they use the app, as they want to be able to support their children during the process.
Phase 3: Creating User Requirements
The initial step in creating user requirements for the app was to define the target persona. To achieve this, I collected and analyzed all of the data obtained from my interviews with parents and children. This data was used to create a comprehensive persona that includes key information such as demographics, goals and motivations, behaviors, and frustrations. This persona serves as a representation of the target user group and helps to ensure that the app is tailored to meet their specific needs and address their unique challenges. It includes information such as age, gender, occupation, and interests of the parents, as well as the child's age, their social skills level, their level of shyness and their motivations to use the app. This persona will be used as a guide throughout the development process to ensure that the app is designed with the end-user in mind.
The second step in creating user requirements for the app was to identify specific, context-based needs of the target persona. One example of this is the inclusion of a recorded voice that reads all text on the screen, as many children between the ages of 4-8 may not yet be proficient readers. Another context-based requirement was the inclusion of interactive scenarios in which the child's personal character demonstrates appropriate social interactions with other children in a variety of situations. Additionally, functional requirements such as the ability for parents to monitor their child's progress and receive updates on their use of the app were also considered. These requirements were developed to ensure that the app is both accessible and effective for the target user group, and that it addresses the unique challenges and needs of children who are struggling with social anxiety in the wake of the pandemic.
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