Week Five: Work begins on a sequel

12 months, 12 products. A new month, a new product.

What are we doing now?

This month I’m going to be working on futuretales.co.uk. It’s a reading list app for kids and parents. It will allow you to track the books you read, recommend new books and plan out the books you want to read in the future.

What FutureTales looks like today

Why this idea

As a parent (of two kids - aged 4 and 6) I’ve often thought about books that I would like my kids to read, but that are too old for them now (for example, the Harry Potter series). So I thought it would be cool to have a super simple app that would allow you to plan out your kids reading years into the future. This appeals to me - I love books, and I love planning.

Maybe there is a slightly larger product here though. If you check out this list of reading list apps, you’ll see that none of them are designed for kids. And kids actually present very different challenges from adult readers:

  • their interests change so quickly, because their minds are growing
  • they read a lot more books, because each book is so short

Parents hate having to read the same dull books to their kids over and over again, so maybe an app that helped parents choose better books would be valuable.

Speaking to a few parents this week (user research for this product is pretty easy, nearly everyone I know has kids!), none of them have a particularly sophisticated way of finding new books for their kids to read.

Most get their books from:

  • random choices from the library shelves
  • presents from friends and family
  • buying more books by an author whose work you already enjoy

FutureTales will help you choose better books for your kids, by letting you record and rate the books you’ve read and recommend books based on this data.

Great idea right?

So how’s it going?

I really want this product to be planned more deliberately than TodoBot, which was pretty haphazard.

In particular I want to:

  • focus more (and earlier) on marketing and product validation (showing the product to real people)
  • be more deliberate in what I build, and plan things out ahead of building them

Getting people’s emails

With these goals in mind, I spent most of the week on a landing site and an onboarding flow. If I have a page that explains the product and a single useful feature, I can show to people and get their feedback. So that’s what I did this week.

I’ve built a page that will allow you to choose some books that your child likes and the app will recommend some others that you might want to look at, and email them to you. You can check it out on the site below:

Get Started with FutureTales

However, it’s still pretty clunky and buggy, so I don’t think I’ll actually send it out to anyone until midway through next week. Thinking I will try and post it on r/childrensbooks

Designing Stuff and making it pretty

I gave a lot more thought into the design of the landing page for FutureTales than I did for Todobot. I think the TodoBot design was pretty good, I used a standard template, but it was super generic.

Here I wanted the design choices to better match the tone of the product. I modelled the colours on the front cover of the Gruffalo.

Spot the difference

At the start of the week I signed up for shuffle.dev, which sold me on the idea of “Wix for developers” - a simple visual tool that let’s you build attractive landing pages. I actually found the editor pretty hard to use though. In the end, I did most of the design through amending tailwind classes, which already give you a pretty tight feedback loop.

I now think there are no quick fixes. I need to get good (not great) at designing and building attractive websites. So I downloaded Figma and did some research on UI/UX topics.

See you next week!

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