Case Study 4: Product research & design

The company (a B Corp building the next generation of environmental stewards through immersive, narrative experiences for children ages 7-10) in early 2015 launched their core product – an offline/online story-focused curriculum that each month explored a different biome, conservation challenge and species. The organization hired Tricycle to help them move this product out of the beta/launch stageTheir goal was to provide users with a higher quality, more engaging experience, thus increasing their usage of and interest in the curriculum.   

Tricycle worked with leadership and staff to move beyond incremental, reactive optimization towards more proactive, systemic product R&D. Instead of discrete, one-off changes to the curriculum - such as creating voiceovers and shortening the stories - the focus was now on:

·      identifying and answering key questions around user experience of the product

·      further developing (iterating) the product in response to findings

·      establishing systems (e.g., around data collection/analysis/response loops) to facilitate proactive product development efforts.

Through the initial needs assessment, a crucial, unanswered question was quickly surfaced: Why were a substantial percentage of users – people who had paid for the product - each month not participating in the online adventures? Product improvements had to date focused on the online component. But if users were not logging in, this work was for naught.  

Because the organization did not have a systematic way to analyze and act on user data they were collecting, this piece of information wasn’t being given the attention it deserved. Once the issue was surfaced, it became easy for leadership to reprioritize to address it.

To better understand why more users were not engaging with the online materials, Tricycle sat one-on-one with a sample of users to observe them interacting with the product, from start (receiving the offline materials) to finish (completing a monthly adventure). Two crucial findings emerged:

·      While the assumption was that adults would participate with children in setting up and using the curriculum, this was not happening. Parents did not realize children needed some assistance to get started with. the program, and were simply handing them the box.   

·      The log-in instructions and “teaser” for the online story were too complicated for children. They looked at the curricular materials they received in the mail but - faced with a solid page of text - disengaged, missing the teaser and log-in instructions. Many did not even realize there was an online component.

To address this issue, the organization designed a visual teaser (a comic) geared towards early readers that included simplified log-in instructions; they combined this change with a social media and email push to parents/guardians reminding them to at least once walk children through the curriculum and help them log-in. This significantly increased log-ins month-to-month and set up two next stage questions: how logging-in to the system could be made easier for children on their own; and how to encourage new subscribers to help children complete the initial log-in process.  

The implications and benefits of this work went beyond the log-in process. Tricycle’s approach to the project – surfacing key questions and gathering data to answer them, rolling up sleeves and participating in the day-to-day work - surfaced issues with internal systems that also impacted product development. These were: i) front-line staff confusion about product vision, and particularly the connection between the on- and offline components; ii) lack of clarity around responsibilities and team structures; iii) lack of capacity to analyze and report out data that was being collected.

The expertise provided by Tricycle helped leadership to clarify vision/mission as well as product design and development processes; take down silos between teams; develop roles with more responsibility and autonomy; and invest in improving data quality.

The results of this work were: a stronger, higher quality product, improvements in organizational structure, and more customers engaged with and using the product.