Marcie and Me

CHILDREN’S EDUTAINMENT IOS APPLICATION

Summary

For the past 20 years, Marcie Schwartz has been “edutaining” parents and their children in the unique Marcie and Me play program classroom. This is a blend of both educating and entertaining parents and their children ages 1 to 4. After retiring last year, Marcie is now bringing this concept out of the classroom and to the rest of the world via the Marcie and Me Show. The goals of the show are twofold; to “edutain” children as well as offer parents unique learning opportunities they can recreate at home.

Objective

Design a mobile app that: addresses two audiences (parents and toddlers), plays video clips of the show, contains weekly classroom themes, and opportunities to monetize. 

Challenges

Marcie and Me is starting from the ground up with the new business venture. As designers, not only did we have to take design elements into consideration, we also built an entire business strategy behind the mobile app. We were also challenged to build this app for two different audiences: the parent and the toddler.

Team

4 UX Designers

My Role

Project manager, user research, business strategy, user scenarios, personas, user flows, wireframes, final presentation

Duration

3 Weeks

Tools

Sketch, InVision, Axure, Trello, Xtensio

Process

Empathize

Contextual Inquiry

Two of my team members have toddlers and were invited to one of the Marcie & Me filmings. They were able to gather a lot of information about the program as well as gain an understanding of how the episodes are broken up. These learnings helped us to determine they layout of the app and how we should organize the information and content.

User Interviews

We sent out a screener survey and received 38 responses. We chose 7 highly qualified participants to interview all of which are parents of toddlers and daycare providers.

Competitive Analysis

I worked on a competitive analysis for our team. I looked at 7 children’s mobile apps and one parent specific app. Based on our user interviews, the more popular kinds apps included Sesame Street, PBS Kids, and Nick Jr. Below is a snapshot of our competivie analysis:

Define

Data Synthesis

As a group, we utilized the practice of affinity mapping to help us identify common themes after completing our user interviews.

Examples of Our Findings:

  • Music allows me to connect to my child as well as connect children to culture
  • My child and I love to explore imaginative play
  • My child gets immersed in animated programs and “their world”
  • We love these programs and brands
  • I value educational programming
  • I’m concerned about what my child is watching

Personas

Based on our research, I developed two personas. The first person is a parent who wants technology in the home but is concerned about their child’s development. The second persona is the toddler and is able to use their parent’s phone and recognizes their favorite apps and understands how to operate them.

SWOT Analysis

I partnered with one of my teammates to create a SWOT analysis and lean business plan. Our goal was to understand the Marcie & Me business today as well as identify areas for growth in the future.

The biggest strength we identified for Marcie & Me is the idea of “edutaining.” This is unique to today’s children’s apps and something parents want. The area of opportunity that we identified is that Marice & Me is a live-action show and today, most children’s programming is animated. This can set Marcie & Me apart from the other children’s apps and foster an environment for emotional connection for both parents and children.

Problem Statement & Solution

Problem:

With an ever-growing amount of CGI and 2D animated cartoons, kids no longer have a strong connection to real people. Additionally, these programs do not create an avenue for parents to become informed about activities they can do at any age level that do not require a lot of time, materials, effort, or creativity on their part. These programs are typically turned on for the kids as a solo activity instead of helping the parents engage with their child. They are impersonal and don’t promote essential development.

Solution:

Marcie & Me seeks to bridge the ever-widening gap between parents and their children, which begins at an early age. Her play groups feature content focusing on socio-emotional skills as well as the basics like colors, counting, and letter of the week. Through sensory activities as well as free play and circle time, children are primed to connect with each other, their parents, their environment, and their greater community. Marcie calls this unique approach “edu-tainment”.

User Flows

I created user flows for both our personas based on the scenarios I wrote for each. The first user flow shows the parent downloading the app, navigating through the onboarding process, and utilizing the “grownup” sections. The second user flow shows the toddler persona opening the app and navigating to a video to watch.

User Flow 1: Parent

User Flow 2: Toddler

Ideate

Design Studio

After gaining valuable information during our research and discovery process, we were eager to begin ideating. As a team, we decided to utilize the design studio methodology in order to brainstorm, critique and prioritize our thoughts.

Our Method:
1. Illumination: Set 60 minutes on the clock.
2. Collaborative: Ideation: Rapid whiteboard sketching
3. Presentation: Sell ideas, accept changes, and negotiate positions.
4. Critique: Provide actionable and positive counterarguments
5. Iteration: Extract concepts and do it again!

Sketching & Paper Prototype

I use our design studio takeaways and implemented initial sketches of our mobile app. As a team, we tested my sketchings and iterated on them.

Design Decisions:

  • Fixed horizontal orientation
  • Scrolling mosaic tiles
  • Scrolling left navigation with iconography
  • Separate “grownups” section

Wireframes

Following our paper prototype testing and iteration process, I created the mid-fidelity prototype using Sketch. I passed the wireframes off to another teammate who built a prototype in InVision and began testing. Following our tests, I iterated on the wireframes before passing them along to another teammate who would apply the visual design.

Application Map

Based on our design, a member of our team created an application map. Our app map shows all the components and interdependencies of the product.  

Visual Design

Logo

A challenge our team took on was the rebranding of the Marcie and Me logo and identity. Marcie and Me was founded over 20 years ago neither the logo nor the brand had ever been updated. We knew we wanted to modernize the business and make it something that both parents and kids would remember.

Before

After

Iconography

Based off our user interviews and competitive analysis, we made the design decision to utilize iconography to represent the different themes (or episodes). Toddlers do not typically read, but they can recognize their favorite brands. By using icons toddlers can recognize, we’re offering an easy to use yet fun aesthetic to the application. The visual designer on our team hand created each icon for the app using Sketch.

Themes (episodes)

Categories

Layout

We decided to use mosaic tiles to showcase the video clips. Starting at 1 years old, children understand scrolling and tapping. This design makes it easy for toddlers to navigate the app and play their favorite videos. We also took development into consideration and templatized the app so the pages are consistent.

Navigation

We chose to have a fixed scrolling navigation on the right side of the horizontal screen. Our research showed that toddlers know how to scroll and recognize their favorite characters. This navigation is engaging and recognizable. Most children’s apps use this style of navigation and we wanted to ensure we were not introducing something brand new to the user that might be confusing or frustrating.

Prototype

A member of our team built our prototype using Axure with the intention of including some realistic interactions that is representative of the final coded product. Our clients will be utilizing this prototype along with our other deliverables in upcoming pitches to investors.

Click the below image to be redirected to the prototype link. Or, check out the video at the top of this page.

Test

In order to ensure we were delivering a product that actually solves both our client and users problem, we tested, iterated and tester and iterated again. Below is the test plan we created:

Next Steps & Reflections

Next Steps

  • Pitch prototype to investors
  • Develop app and add to Apple Play Store
  • Release app for beta
  • Add music to Spotify & Itunes
  • Continue to test and iterate

Reflections

This has been one of my favorite projects thus far. Not only did we build a product from the ground up, we also redesigned the brand, and developed a lean business plan. The biggest challenge was to build this app for two very different users, parents and toddlers. We needed to find the right balance for both users. Also, Marcie & Me is competing with animated programs that is entertaining, cheaper and easy to produce. We needed to find an competitive edge and run with it. Overall, our team and client were very pleased with the final product and are excited to move forward with the development of the app!

© 2018 ALLIE GEORGE