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Doodle Dots


If a police detective is only as good as her informants than a games user researcher is only as good as her play testers (sorry, I just watched an episode of The Wire). In this blog post I introduce my latest play tester, Ashton. Ashton is awesome – and not just because he works for me in exchange for cupcakes. His little hands and eyes pick up on things I would never do, think of, or see. I’ve done 7 or more play test sessions with Ashton, each lasting about 20 minutes and separated a few weeks apart.

For the first 4 sessions Ashton wanted to play Doodle Dots first thing over all other apps, and I thought that was a great compliment from him to the Doodle Dot team. However, his interest faded over time, and I think a large part of that was due to his ability to “game the system” in Doodle Dots. He was no longer challenged in learning the various colors, shapes, fruits, and numbers because he beat the system by learning the pattern of how to complete the dots to draw the picture.

Figure out the starting dot and then complete clockwise pattern to finish drawing.

And because this pattern never changed, Ashton didn’t think there was anything else in the game that he needed to do. So, we moved on to other apps before he had /really/ mastered the content. If you’re wondering, Ashton is 3 years old and Doodle Dots is for 4+, so I don’t think it’s because of his age that he was able to game the Doodle Dot system.

Genre and style Educational app

Platform played on iPad

Good UI/UX

    • I was pleased to see a variety of different geometric object shapes. Kids that are playing this app are learning visuospatial abilities such inferring an object from limited visual cues such as shape and outline.

What shape will appear?

    • Ashton (and I) appreciated that each trial/picture was short and kept the user’s attention. Ashton loved how at the completion of each drawing the object would appear, and he consistently looked forward to this reward. Had Ashton been older, I think he would have also had fun with trying to guess what each object was before the dots were completed.

      Completed doodle dot!


    • The menu button was poorly placed. Ashton would constantly bump the menu button with his palm. The first time he did this I was surprised at what happened, and asked him “what did you press?” but of course he did not know what he pressed since it was an accident.

Menu shows objects and completed drawings. Yellow menu button not labeled when menu appears. (So why even have button shapes?)

  • Too easy to game the system. There’s no need to learn colors, shapes, fruits, or numbers. The only thing the user needs to learn is the clock-wise pattern of filling in the dots to complete the picture. The user can keep guessing to get the first dot correct (as Ashton did), and after that they will know how to finish the drawing.

Recommendations for improving UI/UX

  • The grid space where the dots/drawings appear takes up only 35% of the screen space, this space should have been increased. I’m not sure the menu button in this app warrants so much room since it just shows which drawings have been completed. My hunch is a smaller menu button would suffice since kids who are old enough to want to access the content in the menu could remember/find a smaller menu button.
  • Make “levels” of easy, medium, and hard where dot order/pattern corresponds to difficulty level. It’s okay to start with a clockwise dot pattern as long as you include the possibility of more difficult random dot orderings.

UI/UX rating
60 out of 100

How nauseous the game’s graphics made me feel
0 out of 100

Game info Doodle Dots, Games, PBS Kids Sprout, 2011, iPad

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