Lizzie Teo

Avatar & World


Avatar & World




The Avatar is a feature that allows Students to purchase items with credits and customise a character. 

The World is where Students' avatars visit and complete Maths Activities to earn credits.

Creative Fields: Tablet, Web

Created: June 2016

The Process

  • Champion UX value to the business
  • Research on HCI and Child Psychology
  • Interviews, Participatory Design, Discussion Focus groups and Desirability Study with Users
  • Collation and analysis of findings
  • Information Architecture
  • Presentation through Storytelling
  • Brainstorm and Sketch Boarding ― ideation


To steer the Stakeholders toward a user-driven development process; to improve and revamp the current Avatar & World Feature in order to drive students' learning and engagement experience.


Company's increased knowledge in UX; framed vision and facilitated rapid prototyping with a cross functional team of Interaction Designer, Graphics Designer, Programmer and Product Owner.



What were the Problems?

The two key problems to be solved were:-

  1. The current Avatar Feature was built using Adobe Flash. Chrome would be getting rid of Flash Player. Time was running out and the organisation must migrate the feature to HTML. This would be the right time to revamp the outdated design.
  2. Children and Teenagers get bored easily. How do we keep them interested in completing the Maths Activities in our product? How would the Avatar Feature drive their learning and motivation?

What were our Business Assumptions?

I interviewed the Product Owner, worked out the hypothesis and business assumptions then together with the PO, we refined them further.


Kick-off Meeting with Cross-function Stakeholders


I invited an appointed stakeholder from each discipline of the business namely, Development; Marketing; Graphics and Interaction Design; Content Writers. 

This was to ensure input from each key function was gathered from the start of the project; to have clear shared goals; and to gather best ideas.

Problem & Solution

A couple of the stakeholders didn't turn up for the meeting.

I had to take initiative to chat with him or her separately, be direct and respectful, and let the person knew we needed his or her input to ensure the success of the feature. 

What I learned about Facilitative Leadership

Because UX was new to the corporation, it was important to assist team leaders in understanding UX and help them "connect the dots". 

Facilitative Leadership helps foster involvement of team members; encourage behaviours that seek to adapt, solve problems, collaborate and cooperate.

Things not to do

Things not to do

What we want

What we want

Saturate & Group

Unpacking Thoughts

Each stakeholder wrote down his/her thought on a post-it and we grouped them.

Key points:-

  • Objectives and possible pitfalls 
  • What do we NOT want to do?
  • What do we want to do?
  • What drives a good design?
  • Do we share one system for all educational products in our company?
  • How to recruit participants efficiently?

What I achieved

Stakeholders were able to voice their concerns and have a healthy debate, and eventually came to a consensus. 

The diversity of people with varied backgrounds and viewpoints meant I was able to gather breakthrough vision and insights. 


Design Guidelines

As a group, we agreed upon a set of design guidelines for the feature.


Brainstorming Features & Needs

This helped frame the interview questions and types of activity I would facilitate with children and teenagers.

Key thoughts that led to this mind map were:-

  • What do they want to do? NEED
  • Will they do something about it? MOTIVATION
  • What can we build to do this? FEATURE
  • What would motivate students?
  • What are their forms of self-expression?

Planning Interview Questions

I got the Product Owner to give me his inputs after drafting the interview questions for the Primary and Secondary students. If the parents were to attend the session, we'd take the opportunity to ask them a few questions.


Interviews & Observation Study

Children's needs, frustrations and motivations

Working in pairs for an interview is preferred so I could maintain eye contact with the participants and my colleague could jot down notes.

Audio or video recording is vital for references at a later stage to either track information a note taker might have missed or to show to stakeholders for buy-ins. 

Observing how children interact with the games they love

This allowed me to study:-

  • Most intuitive gestures on the iPad
  • Impact of Interactive Design - Greetings by character; Instructions; Time-Outs (Suggestion of what to do next); Wrong Answers; Correct Answers; Feedback that encourages or react to kids' input; Help

Participatory Design

11 Year Olds

"What are your favourite games?"
"Sketch out the themes of the worlds your avatar would visit and complete Maths activities"

Nick sketched out the themes

  • Maze World
  • Trampoline World 


7-8 Year Olds

"Sketch out the world that your avatar lives in"

Lily sketched out the map of her avatar's world

  • House
  • Fair
  • Fountain
  • Photo booth (to take pictures of her avatar in different costumes
  • Villages
Sketch board Lily Empathy Map.jpg

From Interviews & Focus Groups to Empathy Maps

Here I had chosen to do Empathy Maps instead of Personas because of time constraint. This at a later stage would help Stakeholders humanise and understand Users, frame their ideation process.

Proposed themes of Worlds for the Maths Activities that an Avatar would visit

Proposed themes of Worlds for the Maths Activities that an Avatar would visit

Grouping Same Types of Findings

I grouped information into types and converted them into Mind Maps. This was to make the findings more digestible for Stakeholders.

7-8 Year Old Boy's Selection

7-8 Year Old Boy's Selection

7-8 Year Old Girl's Selection

7-8 Year Old Girl's Selection

Visual Design Preferences

"Pick out the characters that you like" 

A set of printed characters from games and cartoons were shown to the 7 - 8 year old boy and girl to reveal the character styles they liked.

A 7 year old boy's comments on the illustrated styles of characters

A 7 year old boy's comments on the illustrated styles of characters

A 8 year old girl's comments on the illustrated styles of characters

A 8 year old girl's comments on the illustrated styles of characters

A Style Meant for Their Age

Testing the Character Designer's concepts for different ages groups

Students were asked what they thought of the different ages of avatars shown to them. Each child was asked to picked out the avatar that they thought represented themselves; for their own age group.

Summary of findings

I consolidated what the children said and presented the summary to the Product Owner and Character Designer. 

Teenagers discussing the types of characters they liked

Teenagers discussing the types of characters they liked

Post-it notes by Teenagers on their expectations of the Avatar World

Post-it notes by Teenagers on their expectations of the Avatar World


Favourite Characters

Teenagers were asked to vote for the characters that they like (from the games they play) and talked about the reasons. They spoke about the abilities as well as visual design of the characters. Abilities were more important in the sustenance of their interest.

Description of the existing Avatar Feature

They were asked to describe the current Avatar feature in our product and state the "Whys". This helped us get to know their perception of our product, and reveal existing problems.

Summary of 12 year old's preferred themes for Avatar's worlds

Summary of 12 year old's preferred themes for Avatar's worlds

Word Choice

This is the final result of the test "Word Choice" where a set of words were given to them and they picked out the ones they thought should describe their expectations of the feature.


Presentation Through Storytelling

I summarised the findings and converted them into slides, then presented to Stakeholders. Through a Storytelling process, I was able to engage the Stakeholders and achieve buy-in of the message, namely what the kids need and what should be done next.


Information Architecture

Brainstorm of the ultimate Avatar and World that Primary and Secondary students want to have. This was based on the findings from interviews and focus groups.


IA of the Minimum Viable Product


Ideation with Stakeholders Framed by Research

From Findings to Ideation

When adequate amount of research has been done, it was time to convert findings into ideation. I charted a scroll of the UX Research, Context, IA, Guidelines and Inspiration images. 



What I did

I facilitated a session of Sketch-boarding and Dot Voting with two small groups of Interaction Designer, Graphics Designer, Programmer and Product Owner.

This was to brainstorm on the UI design of the Avatar System on an iPad.

What the Stakeholders did

  1. Each group spent 15 minutes going through the research on the scroll
  2. With the given iPad template, sketched out three key screens for the Avatar iPad app that Primary Students would use
  3. Presentation of each group's sketches
  4. Both groups voted for what they liked (green dots) and disliked (red dots). Discuss why.

Idea by Group One - iPad App

Green dots: Liked, Red dots: Disliked


Idea by Group Two - iPad App

Green dots: Liked, Red dots: Disliked



Emotional Tone

I had learned at a later stage as a UX professional that it is important to set the emotional tone at the start of an UX session with Stakeholders or Users. The use of ice-breaker, preferably one that simulates the UX activity could easily achieve this goal. Playing soft upbeat music in the room also helps.

The result of a good vibe in the room is to encourage heads up rather than heads down thinking; get people into a playful mode, allow them to be silly, think out of the box, and churn a range of ideas ― whether outrageous or simple it doesn't matter because a creative process encourages innovation.

Use a Timer

Time each activity of a session. Use a stopwatch app that rings to alert Stakeholders that they're near the end of an activity. 

What would this achieve?

  • Well-timed activities and thus finishes the session on time; it's generally not a good idea to run overtime because people do get tired, it's always better to have people leave on a high note
  • The UX professional would not feel hesitant to "interrupt" through the use of a ringer 

Provide Snacks and Water

This may sound like a very simple idea but from my experiences had proven to be an important one. When Stakeholders or Users get tired, jittery or impatient, snacks or a sip of water help them settle down and relax.

Less Interruptions from the UX Facilitator

One of the feedbacks I received was that I interrupted too often. 

At the start of each activity, I should state that I would be there if they have any questions. It is ok to survey but do so quietly and observe. Interrupt only if the Stakeholders or Users have steered completely off course. 

Less interruptions means Stakeholders could stay focus, get creative and collaborate effectively.