Star Quest.

Star Quest is a mobile application that gamifies the goal tracking process. It turns unmotivating tasks and chores into fun and engaging activities that children enjoy doing through rewards, quests, and level upgrades. 
I worked on the Star Quest project while studying at Cornell Tech's startup studio with a team of Cornell Tech students.
My Role:
User Research, Problem Definition, Ideation, Wireframing, Prototyping, Usability Testing
Teammates:
Johnway Yih, Katie Donahoe, Eva Esteban, Austin Li
The Background
Because the goal of the startup studio is to allow students to go through the process of startup creation. We went through many phases to discover our customers and define the product. In total, we conducted close to 50 interviews during the entire semester.

We started with a general concern about children's mental health and well-being. Throughout the process, we continuously refine our ideas and by talking to users and hearing feedback from people. 

During the later half of our semester, the global pandemic started, and we shifted our focus towards identifying and resolving the challenges parents and children face during the quarantine.​
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Problem

According to the CDC, COVID-19 can affect children directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many children’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. 

During Pandemic schools are closed and school closures have meant that children stayed at home with parents and caregivers who had to juggle caretaking, learning supervision, and potential telework responsibilities.

Research

Initial Research
Because we are not parents, there we started by joining parenting groups on Facebook in order to understand what challenges parents might face during quarantine, we tried to observe what questions parents ask others and the concerns they have. Here are some quotes from the parents we observed.
Survey
The most common concerns we observed from parents are screen usage and balance with other activities. We then sent out a survey through Facebook and the Cornell Listserve. The goal of the survey is to find out the commonalities of these frustrations among parents, why things are hard for them, and what have they done to resolve the challenges. These were our main findings:
Expert
Interview 
​In order to find out how to effectively resolve the challenges parents face, we contacted child development experts from Weill Cornell and researchers in developmental psychology. They suggested methods that worked in the past and things to be aware of.
Key Insights
  • Behavior reinforcement is an effective method to motivate children
  • Gamification methods worked well in the past
  • Parents should be parts of the game process
  • Be careful with rewards
We selected a few parents from the survey and conducted interviews with them, we also contacted families from our own connections in order to better understand who they are, what are their goals, pain points, the context of how they encounter the problems. After consolidating our findings from the interviews, we created user personas to better illustrate the profile of the users.
User
Interview 
Children nowadays are spending an increasingly higher percentage of their time interacting with digital devices, the reality to them often seems less exciting and engaging compared to the virtual world. During quarantine, this engagement gap between the real world and the virtual world seems to have enlarged
Takeaways
  • Different children are motivated and challenged by different things
  • Rewards could come in different forms and ways
  • Sometimes with external rewards can be good for children
  • Kids enjoy playing with their friends when they can't meet them in person, seeing them virtually make kids feel engaged
Market Research
We conducted market research, in order to find out what is being offered on the market that would help solve the problems. We noticed that there are a lot of products that allow people to track goals are quite generic and the products that are designed for kids are not engaging enough. 
Many parents and children are experienced with the star charts. From talking with the experts, we realized that it is still an effective way to motivate children, but the chart itself might not be enough to engage kids nowadays, thus we want to expand on the star chart idea and create a gamified experience.
 
Design Research
In order to come up with effective gamification methods to motivate children, I read the Actionable Gamification book by Yu-Kai Chou. In his book, he introduced the Octalysis Framework is a human-centric gamification design framework that lays out the eight core drives for humans motivation. 
Key Insights
  • When people are lack of intrinsic motivation, they need extrinsic rewards to keep them motivated
  • For mundane tasks, people perform better with extrinsic rewards
  • Balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to create engaging experiences. 

Design

Ideation
Knowing the problems, we begin ideating the possible solutions in order to address the challenges parents and children face.
Design Questions
How can we bring more excitement to real life and encourage children to achieve more?
How to give children more freedom to make their own choices?
How to enable children to engage with their friends?
Design Concepts
Gamify everyday tasks, make things children do in real life more fun
Allow children to decide what they want to work on and their rewards
Create a community that children can invite their friends and compete with them 
Experimentation

To validate whether gamifying everyday tasks can improve children's engagement and motivate them to achieve more. I did an experiment with my niece using a basic project management tool for 7 days.

 

We created tasks and rewards together and for assigned star value for each. On the 7th day, she earned enough stars to gain the reward she wanted.

 

Here are some findings and her thoughts on the experience:

  • she was able to complete more tasks than she would normally

  • she felt that mundane tasks become less intimidating because she now has more motivation to complete them

  • she would love her mom and friends to be involved and she would also love to see the status of her friends

In conclusion, we think the gamification approach could offer some children more motivation to finish tasks they would normally feel bored with and encourage them to achieve more. Therefore, we decided to expand on this idea.

Final

Solution

Visual system
With our product targeting children, we wanted to create a kid-friendly and approachable application that kids would love and parents could trust. We are inspired by space travel and collecting stars, thus we decided to name our product Star Quest, and create a visual system around mystic purple tone and playful illustrations. 

Main

Features

1. Define your own goals and rewards
Knowing that different children might have different goals and are motivated by different rewards, we hope to allow children to create their own goals and rewards. 
In order to make the goals and rewards feature easy to use, we hear from users that they would prefer suggestions of what goals and rewards to add, so I changed the add goals and rewards pages from pages with simple input fields to offering more options for people to choose from.
2. Complete goals and redeem rewards
Once the goals and rewards are added, children can complete their goals to earn stars and use the stars they earned to redeem the rewards they want.
3. Allow children to create their avatar 
Based on my research, creating an avatar is an effective way to give children a sense of ownership, especially when they are lack of motivation, they need extrinsic motivation to stay motivated.
4. Allow children to create their quest
From talking to users, we realized that finishing tasks are mostly short-term goals, parents are also looking for ways to motivate their children to complete long-term goals. Therefore I came up with the quest feature to encourage children to complete long term goals.

Other

Features

5. Community
Knowing that many children miss playing with their friends, I came up with a community feature that allows them to add their friends and compete with them.
6. Request
After testing with the users, I added the request feature that allows parents to approve goals and rewards added by their children, they can approve or make changes to the goals and the rewards.
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Learnings

For me, working on the Star Quest project is a valuable experience because it enabled me to learn the different aspects of building a startup. In order to define the problem, as a team, we interviewed close to 50 parents and mental health experts, this experience allowed me to sharpen my interview skills and discovered more effective ways to uncover true problems. Although we decided not to build the Star Quest app in the end we treated the project seriously and we were determined to find solutions to help resolve the challenges parents face when motivating their children.

© 2020 by Queena Wang.