Software Design From a Toddler

I’ve watched my son grow up to the last four years and change, surviving a string of “firsts” while he learns to survive in this world. He’s also taught me many things about my job, more than I’d ever learn in a class. More than anything, he’s taught me what is in store for the future.

He’s shown me that gesture style interfaces belong to his generation. If there’s a touch screen, he can and will use it. If there’s not, he’s surprised. For example, TV’s and my Mac Book Pro: he couldn’t grasp that he can’t manipulate what is on the screen by walking up to it and tapping what he wants. It wasn’t until he was ~4 that he understood the touchpad. He gets along fine with my Windows computer. Wading through the synced photo gallery of my life is one of his most favorite things to do. He loves to ask questions about my wife and I’s past.

He’s taught me that things like Alexa and Cortana pass the “turing test” for a toddler. He thinks they’re real people. Siri exists behind a non-touch interface, so he’s only met her briefly. Also, Siri has trouble understanding my son, while Alexa and Cortana do not. Speech recognition has come so far, it’s mind blowing.

He’s taught me to manage my time wisely. A child takes up a lot of time and it’s wise to spend it with them when you can. One day, I’ll be gone and his memories of me will be all that remain. I try to make them good ones while not sacrificing what I love to do. It’s a challenge, but its one worth pursuing.

He’s taught me that good interfaces reach more people. When it’s hard to explain to him how to navigate an app, you know the interface needs some work. I think in the future, I’ll build any interface like I’m going to explain it to a toddler. In general, I think clear, simple interfaces are better and it’s funny to watch a toddler prove it.


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