Playtime Island

Playtime Island

A simply amazing project to lead the design of with a brilliant product team.

The Problem

The CBeebies Playtime app has been a huge success for the BBC but the filesize of the app has always been big (currently 796Mb), adding new content to keep the app fresh required a new update whilst also increasing the file size even further. The technology used also meant it wasn't accessible to screen reader users.

Our Approach

The UX team was involved throughout the product definition phase helping to gather insights alongside the BAs. All the data and evidence from Playtime showed that the strategy of a single purpose gaming app with multiple games was incredibly successful but making games is expensive, the retention on games can be quite low.

The product team spotted an opportunity to reuse existing HTML5 games within an app wrapper. This would allow us to essentially halve the cost of game production, one game for both the web and app.

It also meant the new product could be built to be accessible to users with additonal needs.

Responsive image

The app is currently in BETA on the Google Play Store so we can get feedback from active users.

At the same time of our discovery phase I was rewriting Games GEL to ensure greater consistency between games. The importance of Games GEL can't be understated, it meant if we brought our games together in one app, users wouldn't experience jarring switches in UI or face having to learn new ways to access content.

Responsive image

We created a series of simple animations to illustrate the problems to stakeholders we were trying to solve.

The next challenge was how to deliver new content within the app regularly to our audience.

The stats from the CBeebies Storytime app showed how successful the introduction of a download feature aimed at kids had been. The retention stats and overall stickiness had been drastically improved. As a UX team we'd done an awful lot of hard work to make a download journney simple enough for a three year old to use.

Our assumption was that we could reuse the same download pattern in this new app.

Responsive image

This is the inital concept sketch for the whole idea of Playtime Island.

As a team we listed our assumptions about this new app and story mapped what we felt would be the minimum viable product to get to market. MVP can often be misunderstood but the most important word is viable, the children's market is competitive, we needed to be viable within that.

With this in mind I was aware we needed a strong narrative and a set of design principles to hook the whole menu together. We worked closely with editorial to agree on the design principles before ideating on different themes. We then presented four ideas back to the product team. The overwhelming favourite was for a town narrative therefore each game would be represented by a building.

We created lots of prototypes with different interaction methods to test with users whilst simultaneously creating some inital concept art to elicit the feel of the app. Childrens prototypes generally need to be much richer to hold their interest.

Responsive image

We regularly used whole team exercises such as Rose/Bud/Thorn to help during ideation.

I was really keen to involve children in the design of the app, further than simply in user testing. I wanted to get their thoughts and ideas into the app. We set about organising school visits where we got classes to help draw where their favourite characters could live and how they might travel around the town.

These sessions were brilliant fun and now form the basis of all future design work. We get the kids ideas first and try to develop them into something usable.

At the same time we ran workshops with the product team to help form our hypothesis on the different features of the app and how we might test them.

On the surface it can be easy to dismiss Playtime Island as just a children's app, but the product thinking, reasearch, strategy and ideation sessions make this a standout project for the way the team adopted new ways of working.

The MVP is due for launch in September.


UX&D Team
Robin Gibson (Snr Designer)
Hannah Magowan (Mid Designer)

Team lead, UX Design, Visual Design, Illustration, Animation, User research, facillitation & Stakeholder management

Playtime Island appstore
Playtime Island Google Play
Childrens competition to design houses for the island.
CBeebies TV Sting: Based on artwork I provided, looks incredible.

Responsive image

After the co-creation sessions with the children we'd dot vote our favourite concepts.

Responsive image

The childrens concept drawings would form the basis of all the houses. This is an example of Andys Prehistoric Adventures.

Responsive image

Wireframing the flow enabled the team to build a clear picture before we had any visuals.

Responsive image

The menu features houses that capture the essence of the brands they portray.