MyStory: Customizable story making app to enhance verbal communication and emotional intelligence in kids

Design Brief

The amount of verbal input that children receive before the age of 5 is one of the best predictors that child psychologists have for future academic success. Early childhood is a time of rapid neural migration and myelination in the brain and one of the best ways to foster these connections is through linguistic input and verbal interaction. Unfortunately, there is a large discrepancy in the amount of words children from different backgrounds hear in these first years. To address this issue, we developed a story-making app to encourage and empower busy working parents to speak more to their children, with the ultimate goal of bridging the word gap between children. Our app focuses on increasing verbal communication by creating a recordable story, integrating a variety of emotion words, and offering multiple languages.

Mission

Empowering parents to speak more with their children to support early childhood language and vocabulary development.

Design Process

  • Understand Users
  • Brainstorm
  • Ideation
  • Iterative Design
  • Final Design and Delivery


  • Understand our users

    After analyzing our users, we have five key findings:

  • Parents don't have enough interacrion with their children because of their busy schedules
  • They are billingual parents
  • Children tend to be very active and would like to play outside
  • Parents like to read to their kids
  • Parents don't want to engage children's structured learning


  • Persona

    Goals

    The five goals we identified are for our design:

  • Increase verbal communication between parents and their children
  • Raise the parent’s awareness of child’s emotional intelligence
  • Monitor language levels
  • Foster a connection between the parents and the child
  • Help the parents raise their children in a bilingual environment
  • Brainstorming

    We brainstormed some potential features:

  • Be able to record the process how kids interact with it
  • Be compatible across different languages
  • Allow for natural learning of concepts instead of rigid structured learning
  • Provide various and flexible learning materials which adapt to different kids’ interests
  • Integrate social aspect where parent users can communicate with each other and share information
  • Ideation

    To polish this design idea before we started working on a prototype, we also drew some storyboards which demonstrate how this design works for the five goals of our target users. We worked on these storyboards individually then discussed their strengths and weaknesses together. With these storyboard sketches and having polished our design a little bit, we were more clear about the functions of our design and we were confident that it would work for our users.

    Prototyping

    We began our prototypes by making a paper prototype. Then we made a low fidelity prototype in balsamiq, and then several versions of a high fidelity prototype in invision.

    Our product developed from gathering information about the child’s day from a wearable, to just an app where parents and children can choose from a selection of locations and characters to appear in the story. We made this change after concerns about privacy issues. We developed a database for parents to customize the location and character of the story. (Figure 1).

    This change also allowed us to remove the “raw data” button from our apps menu, because we were no longer collecting data from the kids directly. We changed “Data” to “Customizing the Character” since we got feedback that it would be more interactive if you could create your own characters.(Figure2)

    In the paper prototype, after creating the story, users could not see the new story and they were confused about the way that the story will be represented. In the final prototype, after creating a new story, users will be led to the homepage with new story. (Figure 3)

    Our initial prototype did not follow the “Consistency” rule because the locations of buttons of same function are consistent, sometimes users cannot find where the button is. In the final version, we made the styles and locations of all buttons share same function consistent. (Figure 4)

    We removed the “Milestone” function from the paper prototype, because after the user testing, most users do not know what it is. Instead, we decided to change “Milestone” to “Story Count”. “Story Count” is more easy to understand and it shows how many stories the user has created and notifies people to create a story if they haven’t done that in a long time. (Figure 5)

    Since we have a story database in our app, we develop a function that could adjust the vocabulary level of the story. Therefore, as children grow up, with the increasing number of the words they learn, they could listen to the stories of appropriate levels. (Figure 6)

    Flow Mockup

    The goal of our app is to increase verbal communication between parent and the child, so we originally designed a wearable device for the parent to check the child's daily activities. In the meantime, in our app, there was a function that allowed the parent to view the activities recorded by the device. However, from user interviews and class critiques, we found that this part of design was not understandable by our users and raised a lot of questions regarding privacy issues. To make sure the user could easily figure out the main function of our app (add a story) and to better align with our goal, we decided to get rid of the wearable device and replaced the raw data function with customization. Through customization, the user could customize their own characters to make a even better story for the child.

    Conclusion

    These major sets of changes to our application improved its usability due to more feedback given to the user. The changes to the visual aspects of the application made it more consistent throughout the app and provided to be a better UX design. Our main goal of facilitating more verbal communication between busy parents and their children was also better met by this final design through the shift in focus from the wearable and collecting raw data to customization and story development.