DIY : a DIY Redesign – Yoona Oh – Medium
As part of the 2019 KPCB Design Fellows application, I decided to take on their challenge of redesigning a feature of a Kleiner Perkins company’s product. While scrolling through their list of companies, I recognized many names including Uber, Pinterest, and Duolingo. However, one company that I had never heard of immediately caught my eye: DIY.
I’m an avid do-it-yourself(DIY)-er, meaning I love to make stuff. Growing up, my favorite toys were the ones I made using cardboard, paper clips, markers, and pretty much anything you can find in your kitchen junk drawer. Over the years, I grew an impressive collection of cardboard dollhouses, paper clip jewelry, and homemade board games, and my hobbies steadily expanded to clay sculpture, sewing, and embroidery.
When I saw DIY, I had a feeling that I could strongly relate to their products.
The more I looked into DIY, the more I fell in love with what it stood for. It was a platform for kids ages 6–16 to learn new skills and share their creations online in a safe, encouraging environment, and I was all for youth empowerment and expression. This was definitely a website that I would have loved using. It reminded me a lot of other websites I’ve used in the past including Instructables and DeviantArt, but what made it stand out was the fact that it was kids only, so it was designed to be a safe place for kids to express and explore.
But the biggest question that came to mind was, “What makes DIY safe for kids?”
I did a little browsing through their FAQ to see how they maintained safety in their online community.
“Is DIY safe for kids?”
“Yes! The DIY team takes the safety of our members very seriously. We monitor all content that is shared on DIY to make sure there’s no funny business going on, and we strictly enforce the DIY Guidelines to make sure DIY remains a comfortable and safe environment for learners of all kinds.
We do everything we can to keep your kids safe on DIY, but it’s important that they learn internet safety skills at home too. To learn more about teaching your kids good digital citizenship, check out these helpful guides from Common Sense Media.”
So they seem to mainly rely on two things: constant monitoring of content and parental guidance. DIY also emphasizes that all users agree to follow the Guidelines the moment they create an account.
I also took a look at this Medium post about DIY, which explains its community structure and why it’s so successful. In general, it was semi-self-sustaining, and much of it was from the social interactions that the kids had with each other. Older kids and mods acted as role models for younger kids.
For a lot of kids, this may be their first social network, so it’s important for them to understand how to act and what to say and not say on the Internet. This was something of interest to me because growing up, I remember being afraid of using social media because it was public. It was scary to think that anything you said or did could be permanently written into the cryptic web archives. Cyberbullying and getting hacked were also very real fears for me. With DIY encouraging kids to be good digital citizens, I wanted to tie that into my redesign by focusing on the social aspect of online media.
How can we encourage positive social interactions within DIY? But more importantly, how we can develop kids’ social skills that will carry on outside of DIY and into the future?
DIY is targeted for kids ages 6–16, but for this redesign, I wanted to narrow in on 3 user personas.
For Ruby, I want to design something that will enable younger kids to have some autonomy with technology while also teaching them important social skills.
For Jordan, I want to design something that will help him navigate conversations and give him a better sense of what a natural conversation looks like.
For Olivia, I want to design something that will inherently create a safe and supportive environment for her to grow and thrive from.
With these in mind, I want to redesign the Comments feature of DIY.
Comments are the most direct way for kids to interact with one another, and I felt that this was where I could make the most impact. I was inspired by a couple of other apps I’ve used including LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger, and Gmail where they had “smart replies” so that people could easily and quickly respond to messages, e-mails, inquiries, etc. I saw a lot of potential in this feature for kids because it can show them how people normally respond in conversations, but also, if these responses are positively worded, they can foster a more encouraging, caring community.
So I decided on having a smart reply button that can allow a user to toggle the smart replies on/off. Furthermore, I chose to eliminate the extra step of choosing a category and instead just giving an example phrase from each category for a comment. These smart replies not only apply to comments but also replies to comments. In addition, I provided colored text bubbles to make the distinction of smart replies clearer in the text field, and of course, a user could simply type whatever they wanted to without paying heed to the smart replies even with the setting on.
If I had the resources to do so, I would like to make the prototypes interactive, and going off of User Advocate Jakob Nielson’s suggestion, I would like to conduct a formative usability test with about 5–8 kids, see their opinions on and interactions with it, and study whether or not this feature benefits their social skills (which probably requires a longitudinal study).
Additionally, I would like to discuss this idea with developers and product managers to determine feasibility of an idea such as this. Existing applications using smart replies utilize Natural Language Processing algorithms with the biggest challenge being how to make a reply flow natural within the conversation; however, since kids tend to use a wide variety of rapidly evolving slang, that challenge becomes even harder. Furthermore, from a business standpoint, investing time and resources into a feature like this may have trade-offs that I haven’t considered. In general, I would want a variety of opinions and perspectives to help guide the future of this (re)design so that it benefits both the business and the user.
With this feature, Ruby can simply tap on a reply by herself to talk to other DIY-ers and make new friends, Jordan can use the phrases from the smart replies to initiate and maintain better conversations, and Olivia can share her writing knowing that DIY is a place to get encouragement from others and gain confidence. And these benefits aren’t limited to just these three personas. Every kid may experience one, some, or all of these personas’ pain points as they navigate the online world, but with DIY, they not only develop skills that will make them successful creators, but they also build an accepting and supportive community.
Overall, I had a really fun time with this challenge! I had done a redesign before for When2Meet, but this was a much more in-depth process. I learned a lot about the social behaviors of children, teens, and those with Autism. I also learned a little bit about how smart replies work, and honestly technology is just wild. I still have lots to learn about Human-Centered Design, but I am excited for the journey ahead! Thanks for reading!