Find the perfect story to read to your children
Imagine that it’s 8 o’clock in the evening. You’re a parent, and as it gets closer to bedtime for your young kids, you don’t want to waste time having to sift through dozens of books and stories, looking for just the right one to read to your kids. This seems to be a common problem that many parents (and kids) experience during story time, especially in the digital age. Parents refer to the decision-making process as “difficult” and “time-consuming”, so for this project, TinyTales is looking to create a product that addresses the main opportunity of making the story search process easier and faster, while allowing levels of control for parents to find the perfect story.
The solution is a reading app specifically made for iPads and tablets, the most popular devices used for reading with
kids at home. Parents are able to create reader profiles for their children to find recommended stories and books, keep track of favorite themes, authors, illustrators, specific titles, and of course, read stories with their kids in a simple, visually pleasing way.
As a team of one, I took on the roles of UX Designer and UI Designer. Using a Google Ventures Design Sprint approach, modified for the purposes of this specific project, I was responsible for mapping, sketching, prototyping, and usability testing, all completed within 5 days’ time.
Role: UX Designer, UI Designer
Date: August 10-15, 2020
Tools: Figma, Photoshop
Key Skills: Design Sprint, Sketching, Storyboarding, User Flows, UI Design, Usability Testing, Interactive Prototyping
Design Sprint Process
Understanding the Problem
This problem focuses on the challenge that parents have of finding the right story to read to their young children. This seems to be a common problem that many parents (and kids) experience during story time, especially in the digital age. Parents refer to the decision-making process as “difficult” and “time-consuming”, so right away, I’m going to assume that whatever the results are of this Design Sprint, the solution should at the very least make the process easier and faster. Based on provided user research, it would also be valuable for users (parents) to be able to select stories if they have some kind of rating or recommendation system, an option to sort/filter stories by length of reading time, an option to sort by reading level, an option to preview a story to see if it would be a good fit for their child’s reading level, interest, and attention span.
It’s also a rather universal problem in the sense that, when faced with unlimited choices, making a decision often feels like a burden (decision fatigue). For example, it’s probably safe to say that most users of Netflix have been there, when trying to decide on something to watch.
As for the constraints, I understand that the app has to be designed specifically for tablets/iPads, there is already a library of content provided by TinyTales, and all stories are native to the app—there should not be any options to purchase hard copies, print stories, or read on other devices/apps.
Mapping the End-to-End Experience
Starting off with a simple user flow of the TinyTales experience for parents and kids helped me focus on the end goal for users. This provides a clear foundation for the app.
With better understanding of the problem and users, I was ready to begin the divergent ideation process, starting with competitive research. This allowed me to explore existing solutions and quickly gauge how well they worked.
I was able to find three direct competitors and three distant competitors offered in app stores, created specifically for young children. Starting off with a straightforward Google search for kids’ reading apps, quickly led me to discover a variety of educational apps, music apps, and TV apps for kids as well. Since the problem focuses on the difficulty of choosing a specific story out of a library of items, I chose examples that explicitly showed relevant features that parents/kids might find helpful in their search for the perfect story.
Same offering, same users
Khan Academy Kids
Different offering, same users
Examples include functional as well as aesthetically pleasing features such as:
Theme of the day, rating system, custom profiles for individual kids (Epic Books)
More controls visible to parents/teachers only, for data, educational content, and search options (Khan Academy Kids)
Kid-friendly interface with a clear view of options for browsing (Rivet)
Helpful tools (mic and vocabulary) for building reading skills (Rivet)
Simple interface with minimal categories and a search function (Youtube Kids)
Pre-determined content by parents and curated discovery playlists (Spotify Kids)
Very simple interface with three main functions: (1) play media, (2) search, (3) add to favorites (Toca TV)
Activity to create their own videos (Toca TV)
Crazy 8s Sketches
Next, I was ready to start ideating with Crazy 8s Sketching, a core Design Sprint method, to generate 8 different concepts in just 8 minutes. I selected the Search screen as my most critical screen for this exercise because it is where users (parents) encounter their biggest problem: finding the right story to read to their kids. It all begins on this screen. The user experience of the Search screen will determine the difficulty and length of time it takes for parents to make a decision. Based on what parents have shared about their needs and wants for finding the perfect story (such as reading level, length of book, themes, etc.), many of the challenges they face can be improved upon through the usability and information architecture of the Search screen—where they begin their decision-making process:
Crazy 8s Sketches of the Search Screen
Building out from the Search Screen, I sketched out what the previous and next screens might look like. This allowed me to better visualize the screen as it relates to the user's end-to-end experience:
With a preliminary solution sketch in hand, I was ready to decide exactly how the user will step through the app. This storyboard provided the blueprint for building the prototype.
My process is framed within the context of a specific user story: a new user deciding to use TinyTales for a bedtime story. I start the storyboard with the parent learning about the app through an online article (on Parents Magazine’s website, for example) and from there, the user downloads the app from the iOS app store, loads the app, completes a brief sign up process and then proceeds to find a story to read to their kids. Navigating through the flow to find the perfect story, the parent moves from the search screen (which also functions as a home screen), to a preview modal, and then finally reaches the read screen where they can begin to read to their kids.
Storyboard of the end-to-end experience
Now it was time to make the storyboard into something interactive and testable. I used a full day to prototype my solution in Figma, and took full advantage of UI prototyping kits to allow me to work rapidly.
Figma Demo of My TinyTales Prototype
Curious? Check out my prototype here and let me know what you think!
Finally, it was time to put my prototype to the test! This last day of the Design Sprint was dedicated towards gathering validation from potential users in order to figure out what worked, what could work better, and what the next steps would be.
I conducted 5 individual usability tests with parents, aunties, and educators who regularly read to young children, with each test session lasting about 30 minutes each. Each test was conducted remotely via video conferencing, and I asked each participant to complete 4 tasks to test the usability and design of the prototype:
Create an account and a reader profile
Explore themes and recommended titles
Find a book based on a specific theme that’s not seen on the page
Start reading a book
Screenshots from my usability tests (faces blurred for privacy)
By observing their behaviors and listening to their feedback, ideas, and thought processes, I learned that while most participants found the overall design playful and appropriate for kids, there were some details that would be more helpful for adults. One feature that could be refined or made more obvious is a reading level filter. Although I included an option for users to customize their child’s reading level in the very beginning of the profile creation process, users still want to have the option to browse all levels, and to be able to see and confirm that the recommended book is the appropriate difficulty for their child. This makes sense as it falls under the Recognition Over Recall Heuristic as outlined by Nielsen Norman Group. One parent suggested to add a summary of “Key Learnings” to further assure the parent that the title they are considering will offer educational value. There were also some comments about overwhelming amounts of information on various screens, although users did appreciate the inclusion of certain facts about their book.
Being able to quickly ideate and iterate concepts through this Google Ventures Design Sprint was definitely challenging, personally, as someone who is often detail-oriented. However, I also learned how focus more on the bigger picture, and how to create a clear end-to-end user flow can help streamline the design process.
Since this Design Sprint was only 5 days long, I feel like what was lacking was adequate user research, however, it also reflects a realistic scenario, where the research may be conducted by a third party, and you have to work with what you are given.
My next steps would be to incorporate user feedback into a second iteration, to further refine the usability and continue to learn from this project.