Screens up is an Augmented reality app for kids who love the Nickelodeon world!
The app allows kids to bring Nickelodeon characters and 3D games into their home. It also interacts with the "Kids Choice Sport Awards" program, allowing quiz's and challenges to pop out of your TV (through the use of the app).
The Kids Choice Awards is one of Nickelodeons most watched shows, bringing in 7.3 million viewers at times. Nickelodeon wanted an app that keeps kids engaged with their programs and also lives on after the show has finished.
As a joint Creative Director I was involved at all stages leading many disciplines. With a core team of over 10 my responsibilities ranged dramatically. Spanning from pitching ideas, designing and testing the UI, working with developers and much more.
Understanding the problem
The two largest problems for this project were designing for kids and working within the constraints of the technology.
Our core audience ranged from 2-16 years old. The difficulty of this is that the mental development of each of these users is dramatically different.
Fortunately for us, Nickelodeon had a vast amount of research when designing for children. We were granted access to analytical data from existing apps as well as access to some key players who could discuss their findings first hand.
With Augmented Reality (AR) technology the problems were different. How did the phone detect a TV screen? What actions did the user need to make the phone recognise a TV? What happens if the phone wasn't compatible? All these factors would need to be considered and designed for.
Defining what to build
Nickelodeon had a clear idea about what they wanted. The main focus was interacting with live shows to retain viewers but the app needed to live past this. Nickelodeon wanted to make their characters come alive by bringing 3D games
and 3D stickers into your world.
What was interesting about this app is that the core feature (interacting with live shows) would only be used a couple of times a year. This meant the other features needed to transcend and entertain long after the shows.
Prototyping and testing
Having defined which features needed to be built, we proceeded to start designing the wireframes. Working with a colleague I was responsible for producing and leading this user journey.
Collaborating with Nickelodeon, we used their huge resources to test designs early. This meant putting designs in front of focus groups to iron out any confusions.
Research had showed that a section of these kids where still learning to read. If we couldn't rely on text we needed to focus on things the kids could recognise. Lucky for us Nickelodeon had done all the leg work here and had a vast library of characters the kids knew and loved. This didn't mean text couldn't be used, our audience had mixed abilities, more that our words needed to be simple and used sparingly.
One lesson we learnt when testing was how the layout of our intro screen should work. The feature to connect with a TV show only happens at certain times of the year. This meant the feature could not be used all the time.
Our worry was that people downloading the app (especially to interact with the TV) would be frustrated if this feature didn't work. We had concerns that buttons appearing and disappearing would complicate the journey. What we found was that people did indeed find the button not working confusing. Yet our assumption about jumping UI was not an issue. The kids quickly got lost into the AR world enjoying the games and stickers on offer. When it came to interacting with the show we worked with the program’s visuals to direct people to the app. From there our interface could then show a new button instructing what to do next.
Look and feel
The look and feel was a very easy one for us. Nickelodeon already had a well defined brand bible to follow. That left us to convert these images, fonts and colours into reusable components. Components that could be repeated throughout and built a familiar language with the kids. This language was bright, playful, familiar and enjoyable.
A favourite detail for me was how the sticker characters emerge in the real world. Rather than just appearing we had them exploding out of a blackhole, surrounded by fireworks. This animation made for an element of excitement and an air of showmanship.
Results and takeaway
The App launched for the live showing of the “Kids choice sports award”. It had nearly 50,000 downloads on that day alone and was received with some great first reviews.
This project had a tight deadline and the new technology made it very difficult to work with. However thanks to an amazing team we completed everything within 3 months!
What's my takeaway from it all... The team is everything! There were so many amazing people on this project who worked long hours to bring a little more joy into the world. Even when things went wrong (and things went wrong) the team was there to pick each other up.