Harmonizing magic & technology.
One of the guiding principles of the design work was that storytime is a sacred, intimate moment shared between caregivers and children—one that is already inherently meaningful and compelling. Thus it was critical that any additions to the reading experience not detract from the core book-focused experience. Any concepts that involved third-party interactions—such as a conversation with the Google Assistant, or concepts that added meta-narrative content—such as trivia, were abandoned. Throughout testing, the requirement to make the interactions as transparent and minimalist as possible became manifestly clear.
Together, we utilized a “thinking through making” approach that put a premium on creating prototypes as quickly as possible to test and iterate concepts. The Disney team took repeated trips to an on-site daycare facility to iterate concepts in a live environment. A few hundred miles north, Teague designers hid behind couches in our own testing spaces, triggering sound effects and music as parents and children read aloud.
This testing surfaced a delightfully unexpected use case. With the supporting music and sounds empowering them to embrace the drama of storytelling like never before, parents felt more encouraged and excited to act out the narrative. When reading the same story for the umpteenth time, this support and breath of fresh air was a welcome one to help caregivers combat book fatigue.
The initially expected scenario was to experiment with the caregiver reading to the child. However, as trials progressed, we began to see children proactively wanting to read independently or to other children. The experience of Read Along with Disney was engaging enough that children jumped at the opportunity to become the storyteller, creating the magic as they read.
Our fundamental and straightforward approach to prototyping also allowed for the system's design to be quickly refined. Video of the test sessions—with both parents and children alike enjoying the experience—proved to stakeholders across all teams the concept's validity.