The Brief

Read for Good asked Outlandish to build them a simple free tracker for schools that would help encourage children to read for pleasure.

Teachers use Track My Read to create reading challenges for their class, school or wider community. Children take part by logging what they read, for how long and their level of enjoyment. Pupils gain rewards and positive feedback each time they read.

Initially, we built Track My Read for rapid deployment in a highly cost-effective manner. After a successful MVP delivery and positive feedback from teachers, Read for Good wanted to invest further in the product’s development. The key requirements were:

The Client

Read for Good is a national charity promoting wide access to reading for fun. It provides free books and storytelling visits to schools and hospitals and offers tools for educators to motivate children to escape into reading and their imagination.

Our Solution

Outlandish carried out a design refresh and technical rebuild of Track My Read to streamline the user experience for pupils and schools.

We based our redesign on user feedback and data gathered by Read for Good, which we explored further using a simple survey of a wide base of teachers.

We identified early on that the existing technical infrastructure would not allow us to deliver the user outcomes we wanted and so planned to do a full redesign and rebuild.

Based on the key pain points identified, we created a clickable prototype which we then live user tested with teachers. After two development sprints, we had completely overhauled the look, feel and interface for both pupils and teachers, and migrated existing users onto a sparkling new platform.

The revamped tool has a host of improved features. One of the key issues identified in user feedback was the difficulty of sharing access to the tracker with pupils, which relied on them entering long URLs for each new reading challenge. The new interface offers pupils greatly simplified access to all their reading challenges via a school-specific portal with a fun emoji-based login system. Teachers have simplified options to share login credentials to their pupils via print, on-screen display or email.

Other improvements included:

The Tech

During MVP development we prioritised speed and cost efficiency of construction by using Firebase for authentication, and as the data store. However, this severely restricted the number of bespoke features we could implement, due to the nature of the way it stores data.

For our rebuild we replaced Firebase’s Firestore document storage with a custom node API built with ExpressJS on top of a Postgres database. This gave us full control over the shape of the data, as well as providing needed flexibility for the filtering and reporting required by Read for Good admins. It did mean losing the nice real-time updates that Firestore provides (useful for e.g. the public dashboard showing reading challenge progress), but it was trivial to replace with periodic refreshes. Firebase Auth was replaced with vanilla Google authentication.

Going On

After launching a “good enough and safe enough” product, it was great to spend time with Read for Good developing Track My Read based on feedback, testing and learning. At the time of writing, the tool has logged over 6 million minutes of reading from over 14,000 young people across the UK and internationally.

We are working with Read for Good to create a product development roadmap so that Track My Read can continue to be an impactful part of their mission to share the joy of reading for fun.