This was the last week of Inksmith’s second prototype, Animal Serenade. True to our schedule, we completed the build this week, with most of the features completed by Wednesday night to get it ready for playtests. Some of the features we implemented are as follows:
- The sun, rather than just giving it a glow, now has a cute, animated face to attract a child’s attention. Dragging across any part of the screen drags the sun as a slider through the scenes. Tapping anywhere on the screen zooms into the scene view.
- The special vocabulary word art and animations were added into all scenes. Tapping on one of these special words plays a clip saying the word, as well as activating an animation of the text itself.
- Animal animations were added into all scenes.
- Tapping the animal in scene played an animal sound effect and played an animation.
- Tapping on the special text also activated an animal animation that progressed with each tap.
- A music note button UI element in the top left corner of each scene appears and pulses when the main narration completes. Tapping it plays Kindermusik’s musical accompaniment for the scene.
Kathy, an educator from Kindermusik that the team met in week 6, met us at the ETC on Wednesday. We showed her through the build we had, and got some of her reactions and thoughts. It was almost all very positive, with her enjoying the nonlinear exploration and the addition of the various times of day associated with the different scenes. In terms of future improvement, Kathy mentioned “print recognition” as important to build in this age group of pre-readers. Some of the text animations interrupted or changed what a word really looked like, which could interfere with a child’s understanding of how the symbols that make up a word connect to the concept that the word expresses. All in all, Kathy gave us a very helpful perspective and information from an educator’s standpoint for Animal Serenade.
We had two playtests this week to test the success of the features we developed for Animal Serenade. On Thursday morning, we attended a preschool where we went through our app with 4 to 5 year old students. We came in with a few questions specifically in mind that we wanted to test:
- Do children understand and are they able to successfully use the sun slider mechanic?
- Do children understand that tapping the sun in-scene will bring them back to the outer view?
- Are kids successfully enticed to tap the text animations?
- Is the animation feedback satisfying?
In addition to these questions, we actually had two separate builds that we wanted to test with the children. One of them was cyclic, where you needed to swipe the sun off the screen to access some of the scenes that took place in the evening or night, changing into a moon. Screenshots of the sun and moon cycle are shown below.
The other build had all the scenes on one screen, and the sun moved through all seven scenes without cycling through, shown below.
We hoped the playtests could also help us determine which of these builds might be preferable.
We tested with 9 children in total at the preschool. We had each of them go through both builds, alternating which came first. We tested with both an iPhone 5 and an iPad. Our tests proved very successful in holding child interest, where children were playing with the app for around 10 minutes and not a single one attempted to exit out with the home button. All of them found an interaction that they enjoyed and tried repeatedly, though it differed with each child whether it was the music note, the animal, or the special text. It occasionally took a small amount of prompting, but every child managed to navigate through the scenes with the sun slider in both builds. As far as we could tell, no child had a real preference to either build, though a few vocalized the sun/moon transition, correctly identifying the moon when it appeared. Only one child managed to find and tap the special text in every scene (a 5 year old), and a few other children tapped on the special text where the color really popped and the animations were bouncy and lively.
On Friday, we had another round of playtests, this time with some younger children at the ETC itself. We changed our builds a bit in anticipation, adding in the starry sky behind the moon at night, making all the text a bit more animated, and slowing down the sun animation when in scene.
We found that these playtesters took a little more prompting to understand the sun slider dragging mechanic, often trying to tap the UI icons in the sky instead or just tapping on the sun itself. We also didn’t see any increase in interest in the special text tapping, so our subtle differences didn’t seem to affect child behavior in a meaningful way.
Overall, however, we were very satisfied with our Animal Serenade prototype, and saw a marked improvement in the team process and the end product from our first prototype.
Next week, Inksmith has halves presentations at the ETC, where we speak to the faculty and student body about the progress of our semester projects and where we plan to go for the rest of the semester. Our halves presentation takes place on Monday, which leaves the rest of the week to go through a post-mortem of Animal Serenade and give us the first exposure to our third and final prototype. We will also have playtests next Saturday with ETC’s Playtest Day, bringing in children to go through our existing prototypes.