Bookbug Digital: Research and Development of a new Bookbug App

We’re delighted to announce we will be working with children’s media agency Dubit to help us develop our new Bookbug app! As well as building and launching their own digital products for children and parents, they specialise in children’s media research and were a key player in the production of the Technology and Play (TAP) report examining pre-school children’s use of apps. 

Dubit’s research and user-led approach is hugely important to us at Bookbug - while we believe digital has a role to play in literacy and language development, it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for books and we want to make sure our Bookbug community are able to use both. Senior Research Manager at Dubit, Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice, explains more about the research process behind the development of their digital products.

The connection between research and digital development is vital to the design process at Dubit. Myself and Stephanie Whitley were both invited to present at the recent Bookbug Conference in Glasgow to share our methods with delegates and our involvement with academics on the production of the TAP report, that examines pre-school children’s use of apps on tablets.

But we want to share our methods wider, so in this blog I will outline some of the key ways in which research informs the design and development of products that we create here at Dubit.

Trends Data

Dubit collects ‘trends’ data via a 6-monthly online survey of children aged 2-15 years and their parents across 8 countries around the world. The survey asks questions related to children’s tech and media use so we can understand which types of content are engaging children and what technology they have access to.

Understanding these international trends allows us to understand where the products we produce tie in with what else children are using and the extent to which we are competing with similar content.

The Play Lab

Dubit has a purpose built Play Lab in our Leeds HQ and portable facilities that allow us to undertake detailed observations of children’s play and how they engage and interact with toys, games, characters, apps and books.

We use the Play Lab at different stages of the design and development process. It might be used at the start of a new project in order to understand children’s physical play around a theme we are creating for digital content, or for testing the latest versions of app prototypes.

In our experience, the most reliable way to make a product children love is to involve them from the start! Asking children to help test our products every three to four weeks during development gives the best results, striking the balance between making meaningful progress on the product, while not going too far building a feature that children turn out not to like or are confused by.

Research on Location

If a project allows, we will undertake research in the context of children’s lives to understand better how the digital products we produce would tie in with their daily activities. This can include nursery settings, schools and homes.

Digital products are firmly embedded in children’s lives and they are often happy to meet people involved in digital production and share their expertise about their own play.

Design Summits

Design Summits are an intense 2-3 days, and involve all key stakeholders. In the case of the Scottish Book Trust this could include the project manager, and end-users of the app such as Bookbug Session Leaders.

In the Design Summit, we drill into all aspects of the current offering, we create user journeys and revisit initial concepts and assumptions.

With the development of the Bookbug app it is likely that we will use many of these methods, starting with my visits to some of the Bookbug sessions in Dunbar and Glasgow. I look forward to meeting some of the session leaders and watching the engagement of children and their parents. I always feel privileged to gain insight from children, parents and practitioners who make our work richer.

Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice

Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice is Senior Research Manager at Dubit.