HeyWow

An innovative personalisation tool for a small independent publisher which produces personalised picture books for kids.

Introduction

The challenge

We love being inspired by our clients, and once you’ve discovered the story of HeyWow, you’ll see why working with them was such a memorable experience for us at Bad Dinosaur.

HeyWow is the brainchild of Oban-based couple Lorna and Daniel Freytag, who set out to delight families with a range of personalised ‘seek-and-find’ or ‘mix-and-match’ adventure books for children. We put kids in books is their tagline, which — in spite of how simple it sounds — involved a journey spanning years and a dream pursued tirelessly. We’re proud to be one of the building blocks in making the dream a reality.

Existing problem

Imagine manually cropping, editing and inserting every child’s photo into each storybook… That’s what Lorna was doing and each book was a huge project. Without a team or any kind of automation, she could only handle a few orders a week. Masses of time were needed for artwork preparation, print proofing and what little marketing Lorna could manage — and time isn’t something new parents have in abundance!

Proposed solution

We aimed to develop the fastest and most seamless way to automate the process of putting a character into the custom book. This was to consist of storyboarding the user’s journey through the application, while simultaneously researching the technology we’d need to use to perform the processing. From there, we scheduled time for building the interface, followed by back-end development.

Workshop sessions

When we met for our first consultation — having discovered how the couple’s terrific work journey led them to HeyWow — we instantly knew this was a project with massive potential and couldn’t wait to get started. We also knew exactly how to address the challenge of Lorna’s enormous manual workload.

We worked closely with Lorna and Daniel, setting up weekly skype calls to keep the momentum of the project going; always open to adding new ideas and elements along the way. This was, after all, a project designed by artists and we needed to keep them at the centre of all the creative development. Lorna knew how she wanted the tone and look of the website to be, so we made sure we worked her vision into the finished product.

I stumbled across Bad Dinosaur on Instagram, actually. Something drew me to them — their friendly, informal tone and fun style was something I could really relate to, so I got chatting to Russ. After a while it became apparent they might just be people who could help us reach the next stage of HeyWow.

Lorna Freytag, Co-founder of HeyWow!
Lorna Freytag, Co-founder of HeyWow!

User personas

We outlined the personas targeted by the Hey-Wow web-app

The Parent

Elizabeth

Wants her child to have an immersive reading experience that is both inspiring and beneficial to her creative development.

The Designers

Lorna and Daniel

Want a system of automation to cut down on the great deal of time required for artwork preparation and print proofing on an order by order basis. 

The Child

Anna

Wants bedtime stories where she feels part of the adventure. Her mum can give her a character in her current picture books, but she would love to actually see herself in the stories.

The guys at Bad Dinosaur really got to know us and understood what we were trying to achieve. I’m a meticulous person and was spending ages perfecting these bespoke books, so initially we didn’t see the value in creating a system to add automation to our model… Russ, however, clocked the potential immediately and insisted upon it. I’m glad he did...

Lorna Freytag, Co-founder of HeyWow!
Lorna Freytag, Co-founder of HeyWow!

Design

We and the HeyWow team would certainly agree that this journey was very much a mutual learning process. Where we offered the technical expertise to streamline their product, they provided a lot of creative direction that we needed to accommodate to turn it into something that was true to their vision.

“We were most excited to see the character builder function taking shape. The way it’s able to insert a photo of the child’s face into one of Lorna’s illustrations is really unique and truly personal.”

Russ Peterson, Director, Bad Dinosaur

“We were most excited to see the character builder function taking shape. The way it’s able to insert a photo of the child’s face into one of Lorna’s illustrations is really unique and truly personal.”

Russ Peterson, Director, Bad Dinosaur

Development

Development

What attracted us most to HeyWow’s project was how technically challenging it was (yes, we thrive on that), but that it was also something HeyWow’s competitors had tried to do; just not quite as well.

Before working with Bad Dinosaur, HeyWow went through and cropped all pictures manually into the books. They wanted a way to make this easier, and so we helped them build an app to automate the process of pasting the images into the book.

HeyWow is a really interesting app because it had to be quite complex and we had to really work with their books but it still had to be super quick. Customers don’t want to wait too long while uploading pictures to see the book, so we spent some development time bringing down processing time.

We were really impressed with the fully customised books but they also required a bit of work for us to make sure that the software was very precise, finding the right layer to input the pictures in and showing a preview of the entire book. We also had to make sure that showing the entire book didn’t mean that people could easily screenshot or download the book. We worked around this by showing the preview in a lower quality, which isn’t attractive to download.

This allowed us to show a preview of every single page, enabling users to quickly see how the finished product would look with their personalised pictures cropped in. While the user is seeing the preview, it is stored in a secure location and therefore ready to be sent off at once when the user completes an order. This saves time, as the preview generated for the customer can then be used when printing.

We worked intently with the books to make sure that the software could accurately place the uploaded images, but the app still has an interface for HeyWow to go in and manually look over the project before it is sent to print. This is not strictly necessary, but it’s an extra security feature for the product that keeps it from sending off a book that doesn’t work if the system - or the user - has done something wrong.

The guys at Bad Dinosaur really got to know us and understood what we were trying to achieve. I’m a meticulous person and was spending ages perfecting these bespoke books, so initially we didn’t see the value in creating a system to add automation to our model… Russ, however, clocked the potential immediately and insisted upon it. I’m glad he did.

Daniel Freytag, Co-founder, HeyWow

The guys at Bad Dinosaur really got to know us and understood what we were trying to achieve. I’m a meticulous person and was spending ages perfecting these bespoke books, so initially we didn’t see the value in creating a system to add automation to our model… Russ, however, clocked the potential immediately and insisted upon it. I’m glad he did.

Daniel Freytag, Co-founder, HeyWow

How did we build it?

The HeyWow book builder

To build a character, the website user’s selections create a virtual model. This generates a preview of the whole book for the customer to inspect before they buy. Once the customer pays, the next step is to customise a blank book — starting with name and copy changes, and then placing the character in different scenarios.

Finally, we render a print-ready version of the book and send it to the printer, who prints and ships it. So from start to end, the entire system is automated and Lorna no longer has to spend hours on Photoshop. In fact, she needn’t do a thing.

The future

HeyWow officially launched in October 2018, and since then it’s been going from strength to strength.

Lorna hopes to make this her full-time career and to eventually add even more custom options for her website users. The sheer potential of the new system has allowed her to consider partnerships with well-known brands and publishers, which would offer something seriously exciting for fans of particular stories to personalise their favourites. Publishers have already shown interest in using the HeyWow system to create custom products, including agents from around the globe.

With the biggest hurdles behind them and growth in sight, we’re delighted to see our hard work as a duo of teams truly paying off.

Hey Wow

Startup stories

A pair of creatives destined for adventure, Lorna and Daniel met whilst studying Visual Communications at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen...

Inspired?

Start your app journey today!

Hey Wow

Startup stories

A pair of creatives destined for adventure, Lorna and Daniel met whilst studying Visual Communications at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen...

Inspired?

Start your app journey today!