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Creating an online world of music for kids | Jonny Martyr – UX / Design / Music
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Charanga Music World


As a junior UX Designer at Charanga I had a tremendous opportunity to product manage and lead design for a brand new online learning environment for music, focussed on providing an engaging and innovative experience for kids taking their first steps in the world of music.

I took learnings from my experience in the video games industry as well as the burgeoning trend for gamification to explore new approaches to musical education. The result was a massively successful new pillar for the business which has remained a key product offering over five years’ later, with hundreds of thousands of pupils, teachers and parents experiencing the platform across the UK and Europe.

The Brief

Charanga’s two founding partners had identified the need for an LMS (Learning Management System) that was accessible to pupils outside of the classroom to complement their main, teacher-led product. They asked me to lead design and product management for this new project.

At first, the expectation was for a very “dry” LMS, as a basic “click link to view lesson” experience. However, early interviews with teachers and parents pointed to a greater problem that our new product could solve: the early stages of learning an instrument are very dull, and many pupils drop out before they get to the more exciting parts. How might we create an experience that keeps pupils engaged during this slow start, and encourage them to keep up their instrument?

The Story

Off the back of our initial problem statement research I identified that making our LMS engaging on its own was going to be key to its success. I lent on gamification and other game design principles to create a meta experience on top of the learning process, so that disengaged pupils would be buoyed by these mechanics and incentivised to continue learning.

This manifested in a design for an online “world” of music – inspired by classic RPGs and games like Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, our LMS became a world map through which the pupil would adventure. Completing lessons and activities would earn them coins, which could be exchanged for new items for their in-game avatar.

I collaborated closely with our graphic designer to establish a look and feel for the world, and carefully created a reward mechanic that would keep the pupil engaged with overloading them. From the initial design stage I progressed into more of a product manager role, liaising with devs, designers and product owners to keep everything on track.

Once the product started to take shape I conducted guerilla testing with teachers and parents to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the design and keep it on track to solving the initial problem.

Being a small team, I also took on a number of other tasks related to development, from some coding & UI design through to bug testing and customer support. I also produced teaching materials (complete with VOs and backing tracks) to support key learning resources, which was a nice chance to exercise the musical muscles.

The Outcome

Charanga Music World launched in 2012 and continues to be a key product in Charanga’s lineup, with hundreds of thousands of students and teachers engaging annually across the UK and Europe. The resources have been translated into multiple languages and have made it into classrooms as far away as Australia.

Despite being a project from earlier in my career, Charanga Music World remains one of my proudest achievements. Hearing the stories from teachers and parents about their pupils’ newfound dedication to their instruments was hugely rewarding and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to create something new and exciting that still lives and grows today.