In order for users to find the right book more quickly, I focused on navigation relevant to parent priorities during this five-day design sprint.
Keep the End in Mind
Using Marvel and high fidelity screens I created this prototype. I then tested my designs with 5 users.
The Problem – Day 1
TinyTales is a startup that provides books that parents and children may read using an iPad or Tablet.
I was asked to participate in a design sprint to enable parents to find the right book more quickly and easily within the app.
Since research and personas were provided for me I spent time understanding this research in order to understand the problem. Through synthesized interviews and quotes I learned that parents who use the TinyTales app value reading to their children. They want to choose a book that is entertaining, not too long, and has some kind of lesson. Finding that magical intersection of these three elements is time consuming. In describing their frustrations, parents listed the following as considerations when choosing a book:
- Is the book age appropriate?
- Will the book hold my child’s interest?
- Is the book too long?
- Do other parents recommend the book?
- Is there a lesson my child can learn from the book?
Upon considering a possible solution I sketched a rough idea of what a user flow may look like on in their effort to find the perfect book, as seen below.
I noted that I inherently started providing categories based on the priorities of parents. As parents browse, they need to be able to sort through the books based on various criteria. Creating categories relating to the five points parents consider when choosing a book would help parents know where to look based on their priorities. The book information that relates to parent’s concerns include:
Users would need to quickly see this relevant book information to make clear decisions based on their priorities.
Competitive Research – Day 2
Before building on my own ideas, I looked at the apps for Netflix, Disney+, and Epic since they display a variety of content where users choose what to engage with. As I developed my sketches, concepts from Hulu and Amazon (two apps I use regularly and am very familiar with) also informed my decisions.
Each of these apps has a profile section. Epic, a kids book app seen to the right, has an onboarding process that includes selecting age and book preferences. Other apps (Twitter, Medium, and LinkedIn) include similar preference selections in their onboarding processes.
Disney+, Netflix, and Epic display images which, when clicked, provide further information about the selected title.
The way streaming apps display information is very familiar. Using a familiar format may help users quickly decide if a book is a good fit or not. However, I wondered if there is a way to present this more concisely.
Epic had a really clear search selection which displayed popular searches, then preferences, then all topics under the search bar. The images were clear and playful.
Additional features to consider from competitive apps could include the likelihood that a book will match their interests, similar titles, and a summary section. A summary section may not be necessary in books for younger readers. As books become longer and more advanced, though, this would benefit children and parents in determining interest level. When considering similar titles it would be hard to know if books are similar based on a theme, reading level, topic, or something else. This would take more extensive research to determine.
Sketches – Day 3
With the ideas from my competitive research in mind I began sketching. In order to get several ideas as quickly as possible, I completed eight sketches in eight minutes (“crazy eights”). I wanted to solidify and build upon concepts I’d gathered through competitive research, but I also wanted to create something unique for TinyTales.
I began with the assumption that the most important screen would be the one with the book details right before a user begins reading. However, through sketching, I realized that some of the info most critical to users could be displayed on the search screen.
As I sketched, my ideas had various amounts of content. Some ideas displayed many books at once while others displayed only a few titles at a time. Others depicted only one book. In order to prevent decision overload, I leaned toward an idea that limits the number of titles seen at one time. All the screens depicted some information with the book that would enable users to choose the best book for their family. I chose to use the depiction of 4 books on the screen at a time, which means users would have to scroll down to see more titles. I combined this with the second screen, providing the most data about each book. This would allow users to make the final decision to read or continue browsing.
Search Selection and Information
I wanted to incorporate as much information that related to parental concerns as possible into my designs. Through sketches I determined that I would be able to include recommendations from other parents, age level, and length on the initial browse screen. In order to learn about entertainment level, educational level, key themes, topics, and reading level users would need to look at the details for a particular book. The search screen would also be important if users were looking for a particular book or theme for their child. These are three screens I focused on as key in a user’s journey.
As noted, each of the competitor apps I looked at had different profiles for different users. The key difference, as discovered through user interviews, is that users often read to multiple children of different ages. At this point, I’m not sure how to account for reading to different-aged children at the same time. Perhaps this can be done through profiles and selecting all age ranges that apply to have a “family” profile. In addition, users could have individual profiles for each child. As a user, I’m not sure if this is the best solution. This is a problem I’m looking to address as I continue designing.
One solution I considered added an element of social media to the project. Users would be able to connect with friends, see what they’re reading and even share or recommend books with other users. Although I think this would be a fascinating feature to add, I felt it didn’t address the main problem of helping all users find the books quickly. If a new user doesn’t yet have social media connections, they would not receive recommendations to help them find books. If two friends join at the same time, they may both be consumed with finding a good book and unable to recommend anything to each other. Although this social element may benefit users, I felt it was beyond the scope of this sprint. It may be something beneficial to reconsider in later iterations.
Complete User Journey Sketches
The three screens I created as I sketched became the hinge point of my design. They depict significant screens the users would interact with on their way to finding the perfect book. I considered what users would need to accomplish their goals in order to determine how users would get to these key screens.
Assumptions and Onboarding
I assumed that this would be a subscription-based service which means users would have an account and profile. Before being able to browse, users would need to login or create an account. Having profiles would allow users to generate lists and manage favorite content. Selecting preferences as part of the onboarding process would help users filter content so that what they see is more suitable to their reading habits. As I sketched the screens for the onboarding process and age selection I wanted to present the information most desired by users in a familiar, kid-friendly way.
I decided to have profiles for each child, an option to choose all profile ages, and an option to choose other ages. When choosing all profile ages, all ages selected for established profiles would combine to create a new joint profile. This, I assumed, would be helpful for users who consistently read to multiple children in their home at once. Other ages would, essentially, act like a guest account to allow a variety of ages to read at once.
Once users completed a book they would need to be able to continue interacting with the app. I designed a modal which allowed users to like, dislike, and/or favorite a book. This would allow users to quickly provide feedback about books which could then be shared as recommendations to other users. Upon interacting with this modal it would close and return to the browse/home screen.
Here are my sketches and the user flow they would follow.
Prototype – Day 4
Using Sketch I created hi-fi designs based on my sketches. I wasn’t provided with book titles, cover art, or book descriptions for this project. Yet, I wanted the experience to be as real as possible for users. Since I do not have any licensing to book cover images or any images from clients I used book cover images from Amazon in my prototype for demonstrative purposes.
The design focused on the onboarding process for my users. I felt this was important because it allowed users to select interests and age levels as they created a profile for their child(ren). These were important aspects to the overall app design.
The prototype only walked users through creating a profile and choosing one specified book. It didn’t allow users to explore or find new books.
Once I’d reviewed my users’ needs and the problem of finding the right book I knew my prototype didn’t fit.
Although there were elements and concepts designed to navigate finding a book, the prototype wasn’t sufficient to test these concepts. For example, I had a menu of filters, search options, and tags, but none of them functioned in the prototype.
I went back to Sketch to create a few more screens to add to my prototype in order to gain what was necessary from user testing. Instead of focusing on the onboarding process, I focused on the user’s ability to use pre-established categories to find a variety of books. The more I relied on the client brief and the user’s needs, the better able I was to design and prototype to meet those needs. In this way I tested the design for finding books rather than testing how to create a profile to filter book preferences.
User Testing – Day 5
After I revisited the user needs, I created my user test. Then, I added to my design and prototype with the test in mind. Through my testing I hoped to learn whether users would be able to find books that were:
- About a specific topic
- Within their own time constraints
- Recommended or liked by other parents
- Age appropriate when reading to multiple children.
To do this, I interviewed five users. All interviewees were parents of more than one child. They all had at least one child between the ages of 4-11. I asked participants to complete the following tasks:
- As a returning user, find a humorous book to read to your child.
- Find a book to help your child learn about something new.
- Imagine you have used this app for three weeks. Find a book you’ve previously read from this app.
- Find a book to read that both your 4 and 8 year old would be interested in.
- Imagine you came home late and you’re getting ready for bed. Your child asks to read a book. Find a book you’d read with them before getting them to bed on time.
- Find a book other parents love and recommend.
- Find a book to read to your child about emotions.
One of the users I tested was much less tech-savvy than my other participants. Another user is an avid reader and uses a variety of apps related to reading. This gap in user familiarity with similar apps was helpful to see how various users may experience the app.
The user who was less tech-savvy struggled with completing several tasks but remarked, “Once I figured it out it was easy. It’s very user friendly, really.”
He also explained how he could see his kids using this after they’d used it together once or twice. The user who was more familiar with reading apps compared them to what he already knew and commented on features he is used to seeing but didn’t see in this prototype.
After each testing session, I recorded notes and impressions from the interview in a spreadsheet. Based on each user, I color-coded the completion of each task. Tasks that were completed with little effort are green. Those that were nearly completed or completed in a different way than I’d anticipated are yellow. Tasks which were not completed or very difficult to complete are red.
The results are below.
In addition, I made other notes and observations based on the conversations and observations of each user. Overall, users were able to find a variety of books through various ways. When the path I’d designed wasn’t clear they were able to error correct and find a solution that suited their needs.
What Worked Well
As I observed my users there were a few things that each user commented on or tasks that were completed quickly and efficiently.
- The topics section was the easiest to navigate.
- Users loved seeing a time estimate of reading.
- It’s fairly intuitive to navigate.
The intuitiveness of the app was noted by multiple users and can be seen in the overall lack of red task completions.
What Needs Improvement
Other comments and observations led me to a list of improvements. Many of which are related to clearer text copy. Others were related directly to common elements users looked for.
- The search function needs to be more accessible at the top of the page.
- There needs to be a clear home button.
- The final page before reading needs to include title, author, and summary.
- The profile button needs to be easier to discern, though all were able to find it quickly when that’s what they were looking for.
- The title “high education” is unclear, as are other titles including:
- High entertainment
- My favorites
- Reader favorites, and
- Recommended for me
- Having a “previously read” section would be very beneficial.
- There are too many clicks for the dialog box after completing a book.
In his book, The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease explains that there is a significant gap in the reading and listening levels of children. He explains that listening levels are much higher than reading levels because we’ve been listening for many years longer than we’ve been reading. Parents seemed familiar with this idea through experience and chose ages beyond the age of the child or children they were reading to. They wanted to have a larger range of possibilities that would interest their child(ren) and be enjoyable for them to read. I designed to account for this larger range through the indicated listening level. However, .even though users were aware of the listening gap their decisions indicated they were unfamiliar with books being categorized in this way. Although clear onboarding may help with this, further testing and ideation needs to be considered to account for this listening gap.
One possible solution would be to use words like “interest level” rather than using a listening icon. Another option would be a redesign where age is accounted for in a different way, perhaps by colors or by parents selecting the age range of books they’re looking for each time they log in. Although I considered this in early ideation, It seemed tedious to select the same ages each session. Again, this is a concept that needs more exploration and testing before coming to a final decision.
I discovered that the path I’d established for users to find a book was not always their first inclination. Often, users would look for a familiar book rather than looking for new books. If the purpose of the app is to help users find the books they are looking for or are most familiar with, the design would look different than if the purpose is to persuade users to read new books. Either way, this should be accounted for in the design.
Over the course of five days I was able to ideate, design, and test possible solutions to the way users find books in TinyTales reading app.
Although further iterations and testing is needed, test participants were pleased with the results as they used the app.