Math Done Write, a mobile app experience designed to help students practice and master grade school math via timed challenges, needed to create a visual language they could apply to rough wireframes. After basic discovery, however, it quickly became apparent that the initially proposed experience needed further depth in order to engage—and continue to hold—the attention of its intended users.
My Role: Research (Contextual Inquiry), UX, UI, Visual and Interaction Design
Math Done Write had built an experience to help children study grade school math via timed challenges— a rough prototype on an iPad, an idea with some code behind it and a basic proposal. I was engaged to establish the visual style — the patterns and overall aesthetic—but after my initial discovery and personal time spent with the prototype, I questioned whether or not the experience needed depth. The build I'd been handed allowed a user to create an account with a visual representation chosen from a predefined set of avatars, practice math skills by answering a series of basic problems based on grade settings, and then quiz themselves against a timer. After each set of problems, the user was presented with a review of their answers, and once successfully completing a timed quiz, they received a virtual certificate which was neither accessible via the UI nor carried much meaning.
As a father of four being raised on sports, apps and video games, it dawned on me that for Math Done Write to compete for their attention the experience needed to offer a deeper sense of progression; a journey, if you will, that presented not only the opportunity to better a student's math skills, but rewarded them based on their level of achievement.
Thankfully, I had a built-in potential user base right at home. I walked my kids through the prototype, asking them about each step and watching as they interacted with the app. Then I did the same with their friends. During the course of my inquiry, noticed that most wanted a) validation for having successfully completed a test; b) reward or achievement for said completion and c) encouragement or enticement to continue engaging. Playing other mobile games in this age demographic, as well as watching my children interact with learning tools such as Lexia Core5, IXL, Spelling City and games aimed at an 8-13 year old demographic (Subway Surfer, Disney Emoji Blitz), validated my hypothesis—each digital learning program or game provided a sense of progression and accomplishment via levels and/or lessons—tools that Math Done Write lacked.
I proposed several revisions to the flows in order to create depth for those wishing to progress through complex levels as their education progressed in real life. The better a user does in their quizzes, the more awards they can obtain and in turn, the higher a level they can achieve. In addition (math pun!), the experience would present custom avatars a user can unlock as they reach said higher levels, all of which is triggered by the heart of the app: the Learn/Quiz feature, wherein user tests themselves on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
The user firsts tests their skills in a progressive, untimed set of 10 questions (using the chalkboard to swipe in the answer) and then quizzes themselves on five consecutive timed rounds of 10 questions in order to complete a level and achieve an award. The more awards achieved, the higher the level and the more unique/compelling avatars can be unlocked by which a user can better personalize their profile.
Combining all of that with visual patterns geared towards younger audiences (bright colors, desirable avatars, rounded fonts) created a more compelling experience. Finally, I suggested and mapped a journey for multiple users sharing the app on a single device—for instance, charting separate progressions for my 7 and 5 year olds, both whom wanted to use MDW on my iPhone.
Math Done Write released its initial offering into the App Store in May 2017. After viewing the final product and testing it with my initial, local focus group, I further iterated upon the visual style (creating a brighter color palette, more eye-catching and engaging for younger audiences). As the developer has used different avatars than the ones II'd initially proposed and is still ironing out the second user feature and avatar progression, I took it upon myself to prep a quick prototype to offer a sense of the flow and proposed interactions, as seen below.
As the app continues to evolve, and grade-school students the world over require an engaging, progressive mobile product to help brush up on math skills, Math Done Write is well-positioned to provide an attractive, compelling experience that will give them the tools to learn while also having fun.