Star Quest

Star Quest is a mobile application that gamifies everyday activities. It turns unmotivating daily tasks 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
Timeline
January - May 2020
Star-Quest-screens.jpg
During quarantine, on one hand, parents struggle to engage their children while maintaining their own work. On the other hand, children are challenged both physically and mentally, unable to go out means that they are disconnected from some of their friends and many other things that excite them.
The 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.

Primary Research

Initial Research
We started our initial research by joining parenting groups on Facebook in order to understand what challenges parents face during quarantine, we observed what questions parents ask others and what the concerns they have. Here are some quotes from the parents we observed.
Survey
From the initial research, we noticed that screen usage and ensure their children do to other activities are concerning for parents. 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 these 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.
Personas
Interview Insights
  • 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

Secondary Research

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 many products that allow people to track goals that 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 that the star chart method worked well in the past, we know that we wanted to expand on this idea and come up with a modern version that addresses the needs of our users. We began asking ourselves design questions and tried to ideate possible solutions. 
Design Questions
How can we bring more excitement to real life and encourage children to achieve more?
How to ensure different types of children are engaged and motivated?
How to include parents in the process and allow them to engage with them children?
Design Goals
Gamify everyday tasks, make things children do in real life more fun
Find a form that is engaging for children and allow them to define their own rewards
Allow parents to be part of the gamification process and enable them to help children achieve things
Forms

After setting some design goals we want to achieve, we begin to think of the possible forms of our product, and went through the pros and cons of each form.

Decision
After evaluating the effectiveness of each form, our specialties, and the difficulty of executing each option. We decided to go with the application option. For the application, we want to create an engaging experience that gamifies everyday activities.

Final Solutions

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. 

Application

The app is consists of two parts, the parent's part, and the kid's part. We imagine that parents and kids can both use the Star Quest but for different features.
For Parents
For the parent's part, parents can invite family members, add goals, rewards and quests for their children, approve goals and rewards added by their children, and check the goal completion status for each child.
For Kids
For the kid's part, kids can create avatars, add goals, rewards, and quests, complete goals, rewards, and quests, see the status of their friends and use the stars they gained to redeem rewards.

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.

© 2020 by Queena Wang.