Tikatok.com—an online platform enabling children to write, illustrate, and publish their own books—launched at the end of 2007 to a small group of beta testers, and a bit later to the public. Once the product was live, I communicated daily with Tikatok’s users online and also via special authorship events at local venues including the Boston Public Library. By the time Barnes & Noble purchased Tikatok, at the end of 2009, it was time to refresh the core cloud-based book editing software, taking into account all of the user feedback we had received up until that point. We challenged ourselves with a difficult meta-goal for the project: to add the most requested new features to the editor while making it even easier to use than the first version. And, with a look to the future, the interface had to be flexible enough to support the many additional advanced features we had planned, such as audio recording and features related to our classroom product.
I began at Tikatok as the Community Director, charged with inspiring our users to write their own books and participate in our community of young book authors via guided discussion forums, contests, and special events. But very quickly I took on responsibilities beyond my job description: using my knowledge and empathy for our users to suggest new features, digging deeply into our user data to find opportunities for improving the user flow, and creating product specifications and wireframes for those features and improvements. I had become a Product Manager, and when the time came to improve the editor, I led the project with energy and ambition.
My tasks included:
- Product Strategy and Documentation – Leading a collaborative process involving our full team to identify and fully document the key requirements, expressed as user stories, for the new editor.
- User Experience Design – Designing and simulating the full functionality of the editor via an interactive wireframe prototype, and iterating based on feedback.
- Art Direction – Managing visual designers in the creation of new digital assets.
- Project Management – Working with the engineering team to deliver the project on time.
- A/B Beta Testing – Soft launching the new editor to select users and validating via interviews and user analytics that the new version provided superior results.