Learning Dolch sight words is an important part of learning to read in early education. However, the most common way to learn these words is by memorization, a task few kids love. My idea was to take the task and turn it into a game that kids would love to play repeatedly. By combining sight words with a memory-style matching game I was able to create a fun and engaging experience for the littlest users. Part of the app's functionality includes a section where parents and/or teachers can select a group of sight words to cycle through the game. This allows the child to focus on a set group of words, and gives them the opportunity to master those before moving on. As a UX designer, my journey from concept to development included everything from competitive analysis and personas to wireframes and a style guide.
Competitive Analysis My child users tested 9 iPhone apps, 5 that are focused on helping children learn sight words through different strategies, and 4 that are purely memory-themed games. I discovered through observing the users that most of the apps fell into one of two categories: 1) the children thought they were boring and gave up quickly or 2) became frustrated due to pop up windows or when it was unclear what they should do next. Only two apps stood out as games that the users expressed interest in revisiting. Both of those apps had a lot of animation and sound effects but access was minimal unless the full version was purchased.
Survey I sent a survey out to 30 parents that had children in the pre-kindergarten to second grade age group. I had a wide variety of participants, both men and women who had kids in both public and charter schools across the US. I was surprised to find out that 77% of people had not used an app to help their child learn sight words, but that 91% of them would be interested in an app where they could select the sight words they’d like their child to focus on. This information told me that this feature should be a key functionality of the app's design.
Personas I developed two personas, a 5-year-old child user, Emily Welin and her mother, Christine Welin. Both users have vastly different needs when using this app so it was important to develop personas that captured both the learner/player and parent/teacher roles. Emily wants to have fun when she's not in class, so she tries to avoid anything she deems 'boring' including the weekly sight word list she's assigned to memorize. As a mom that cares about Emily's education but never seems to have enough time, Christine would love to have an educational app to help Emily learn her weekly list.
User Flows The three user flows that I developed were from the perspective of 1) the parent, 2) the teacher and 3) the child. Both the teacher and the parent user experiences allow them to choose a group of sight words to cycle though the game. The parent's flow selects 10 specific words from the overall set of 240. The teacher's flow allows them to choose a set of words by grade level from pre-kindergarten through the second grade. The child user experience takes the path of playing the game by turning over two cards at a time until all 6 matches have been made.