PlayTell

PlayTell is an iPad video chat application that combines ebooks and games to connect families that live apart. I was the chief product officer, responsible for the vision, UX design, visual design, user testing, fund raising and project management. Project completed 2013.

The problem my co-founder and I saw was that families were not able to connect and have meaningful time together. We were seeing families connect over Skype and try to read stories or sing songs over this service. Skype is not ideal and kids would quickly lose interest and run off. We even saw parents buying two books and shipping one to grandma so they could try and synchonize the pages while reading to a youngster. This bright idea also didn't work. This is where the idea for PlayTell comes in, we developed a service that synchonously allows families to enjoy time together. And, when they aren't online kids can conintue to read, play and look at photos they've taken of one another while in PlayTell. 
The interface is divided into two major elements the video chat windows and the shared playspace, where the events are synchronized so that you can coread or coplay together. Here we are in the toybox where users may select an activity to enjoy together.
Once users select an activity we cn not only hear and see, we can also point and gesture to better communicate. Our aim wsa to create a setting that is a good analog for the intimacy we find during story time or play time and this goes beyond combining video chat with activities, we must consider how we reproduce other forms of communication like a pointing, gesturing towards objects, sketching and even giving a hug or kiss. 
 
Creating this venue for personal communication allowed us to see that only about half of the time in a book was spend reading the rest of the time was spend talking, which in the end is our real goal. Provide a space for families to interact and create a love of learning. 
Through our research we saw that the classic games and activities were greatly enhanced with the addition of video chat and small magical moments, such as shaking cards. The little details that give the classic games a small twist reallly made them more enjoyable to the families, which helped extend the play sessions. 
This was our first experiment in coloring, we found that the kids favorite part was drawing the man. This game led us to create our coloring book. 
A coloring book experience, where a kid and grandparent can color together in the same page and then share it with the rest of the family. 
User testing in-person has been paramount to creating an interface that will satisfy the needs and desires of extremes in age demographics, kids and grandparents. We felt that if we nailed an dexperience for these extremes in age, the whole family would enjoy our app. Before each new release of the app, game or book we would test these with families in their homes and also at a local children's creativity museum. These sessions were always illuminating and helped us learn the unknown problems or assumptions we had adopted through the development phase.
Drawing is a big part of my process, it is how I begin to think through and share ideas. In these sketches to the right I began to galvanize how I wanted the re-design of the PlayPal selection process for PlayTell to work. 
My process is about crafting a hypothesis, solving that problem through ideation of many solutions, narrowing down on an ideal solution, generating wireframes that fit the context and finally crafting a visual design and specification to produce with engineering. 
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