English Duniya – The Thought and the Process

( This blog post has been written by Gopal Ojha, UI andUX Lead at Zaya Learning Labs. )

Recently we released an alpha version of ‘English Duniya’ app on play store. Quite excited about that, especially when kids use it and speak in English, it’s satisfying. But, we are still very far from achieving our goal of making learning more accessible, easy, effective and enjoyable.

Why English Duniya-

You might go online and find a lot of quality content, for example, Khan academy, Coursera etc. But the biggest problem in India, and for matter of fact, in any rural areas, is “No Internet”. So, basically the content is useless for a wide range of people who do not have internet connection.

At Zaya, we started our journey, with ClassCloud which is basically a portable box for accessing high-quality content to start learning anywhere. The response was good. People started using it. With a lot of iteration and user testing, we built a good product. But, as time passed we faced an obvious problem. “Kids cannot read English”. This is one of the key reason, our previous app for the class-cloud was not achieving 100% effectiveness.

So, we started English Duniya.

Clarity on what are we building-

So, when we started ED ( I would refer English Duniya as ED from now on, it’s easier ), we were very confused as to what to build. If we should make a gaming app ( which is obvious because, kids learn faster through games) or make it more of a restrictive learning app ( sounds boring right ). But the biggest question that needed to be answered, was, are we making an app which will impact learning? We researched a lot and saw a lot of gaming apps out there, right from flash card games to letter tracing. It was clear, that we did not want to make a ‘me too product’ as an app. We set out to do what we do best. We wanted to create a learning experience, which is measurable, communicative and actionable. Let me go over these three words.

Measurable : Our user should know what are their strengths and weaknesses are.

Communicative : We should be able to communicate every step of their learning properly. We don’t want them to wander in the app.

Actionable : User should be able to take an action on a specific result.

But, remember, we are talking about kids here. Mostly from Grade 1 to Grade 3. All the above points will hardly make any sense to them. So, it was very important for us to create an app around these three principles, yet make it fun. Simply put, it was challenging.



No email-id :

One of the simplest challenges we faced was to register our user. From a technical perspective we needed to track every activity per user. And, this is more semantic when you have user data. For an usual data driven app, where the demographic are adults, registration is not a problem, because they are more tech savvy. But, for us it was a different scenario. Our user base is not very tech savvy, and most importantly they don’t have an email id (yes it’s true!)

So, we were left with very minimal amount of data that we could collect from our user. Most importantly, we wanted them to use the app first, everything else was secondary. So, the solution was to remove the hectic registration and only collect name/grade/gender.

UI for kids:

The second challenge was making a UI which was kid friendly. By the word, kid friendly, we meant the way they interact with the app. Firstly they cannot type, secondly any gestures more than just a simple tap is not very intuitive for them. So, we removed any design which required user to type or drag or swipe or any other advance gestures. Unfortunately, we could not remove typing completely, because they have to input their name anyway. So we made a custom keyboard, which basically was a trim down version of the stock android keyboard.

screenshot_20160914-112001 We created our own principles from what we learned from the user behaviour. One of the key principle is, we cannot expect the user to make decisions in the app. Because, kids cannot make decision. We have to guide them through a UI. And, whenever the user hits a dead end, like ‘practice done’ etc. we tell them specially what to do next.


Assumptions & Mistakes: Yes we did it too-

We tried our best to avoid it, but we had our fair share of mistakes anyway. One of the critical assumptions that we made while designing our app, was that our user would be able to download the ED app from the playstore, register, make a decision about what to learn, and learn accordingly. That was a complete failure when we tested the app with real users. They never downloaded the app from the ‘Play Store’ (which everybody assumes by default). They generally go to nearby shop, if they need a music app, or they share an app through ‘Shareit’ which is an inbuilt app in the latest android phones. Basically, they never go online. Which again brings us back to the same point of being present offline- the reason we started Zaya.

Key Learning-

This might vary according to the demographic you are targeting. For us it was something like this :

  • Make the decision for the user
  • Make them use the app first. Collecting data or anything else is secondary
  • Test, test, test, test with your user… Cannot stress it more

Going forward-

Right now we are focusing on making the user experience completely offline, because that’s what our mission is at Zaya.

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