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Online Services and appreciating the family unit

As my family and I contemplate buying our first house and the impending move we were counting up all the accounts, utilities and services we needed to notify and appreciating just how many are now all online.

Just about anything you care to sign up for or any service you have on a monthly basis can be handled online, which is great, aside from remembering and managing the passwords, it has made life a touch easier.

But with our growing family an obvious flaw in these online services suddenly emerges – the need to understand the family unit. Maybe it’s post-modernism, maybe it’s the young single start up types that create these services, but none cater for and allow for family use.

Here’s a great example and one that gives me the most headaches to navigate – iCloud. iCloud is great for individuals, with far too many devices for their own good, it’s a perfect way to synchronise everything and keep yourself on the same page no matter what screen you’re using. But what if you’re like, I assume, the vast majority of it’s users and actually have a lot of devices because you have a family.

Go with me on this clearly crazy idea, but what if you and your wife have an iPhone, you share an iPad, you have a family desktop, a work laptop and your kids have an iPod touch each. What if for some crazy reason you want to have you’re own email addresses, and perhaps you’re own default calendar. Being family you don’t want to have 4 iTunes accounts and buy 4 copies of Wall‑E, or download the Facebook app 4 times. Perhaps you do like to see each other pictures though, and when Dad’s travelling keep in touch through Facetime.

Well you can do many of these things, if you trawl through the forum and blogs posts, follow the careful set up recipes and make sure everyone knows how to use each part of the service without breaking it for someone else.

Or you could do as the frankly, brilliant, Netflix have done and implement multiple profiles within one account. I’m sure I never prayed a prayer to ask God to bring this about, but seriously two weeks ago I was staring at my Netflix account wondering why it thought I loved Cinderella and Thomas the Tank Engine, (thanks Sophia!) when i realised they need a family profile option. Last week it was implemented and it’s pure genius.

My login remains the same, I still pay the same monthly fee and everything about the account I can control. Yet when it comes to watching something, my wife or the kids can switch to their profile and see the highly customised recommendations just for them. Perfect for the rainy afternoons and cartoon time, and when Friday night comes around I’m not being suggested Postman Pat.

This won’t be suitable for every online service, but as we do move more and more of our lives online, especially in the entertainment, communication and social space I would love to see more services thinking of the family.

I would like to think it’s not a sign of the times and families are not edge cases’ at UX design meetings, maybe the sad truth is that it is. However, if you are building online services, engaging people with Truth based content take a moment to consider and honour the family. Is it suitable for your product? Can it help bring families closer together? Does even the way you design the tool show how much you value family, as God does?

If you’ve come across any other services catering for families or you’ve found some that you wish did let us know in the comments.

Posted on Aug 14, 2014 by Sam Peckham

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