Even in a contemporary society where families and friends are used to being separated for any number of reasons—work, studies, travel—the extreme separation many have recently undergone during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced just how emotionally valuable it can be to feel closer to the ones we care about in order to support them, care for them, and simply be a part of their lives.
At Bad Dinosaur, we love taking on projects that have at their heart the goal of improving the lives of others by combining sleek tech solutions with our clients’ innovative ideas and talents. So that is why when Caroline M. England approached us with her project for Featherbed Tales, a platform that allows users to digitally record readings of storybooks for children who are missing a loved one, we immediately knew it was a project we would be proud to be a part of.
Hearing a loved one’s voice is a powerful and resonant experience, something that we might take for granted with those who are a part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, there are a whole host of reasons why family and friends might be separated from one another, and often these circumstances can be exceedingly difficult on children. For Caroline, a children’s writer who is inspired by her surroundings in the UK’s stunning Peak District, three distinct events brought about a realization of just how powerful a familiar voice can be, sparking the idea for her digital storytelling platform Featherbed Tales.
The first event was the deeply tragic death of a close friend who passed away from a brain tumour shortly after her family had adopted a young son—the mother had recorded a voice message welcoming her son to the family, and this would become the only direct communication he would ever have with her. The second event took place shortly after, when Caroline was taking part in a swim at Coniston Water and was suddenly flooded with a surge of childhood memories upon hearing the voice of a woman who turned out to be a teenage friend who she had not seen in decades.
These two seemingly disparate events came together when Caroline remembered how, when her father-in-law had passed away years prior, his wife had kept his voice recording on their message machine for the comfort and reassurance it brought her when she would call and listen to it. As a writer, Caroline knew of the vast possibilities and power within a voice, and she began to consider how much more meaningful it might be for children if the voice of their book’s storyteller was that of a loved one who couldn’t be with them for story-time.
These three events made me realise how important voice is in our daily lives, something which I believe we under-value, but which can have a huge impact in connecting us with memories, emotions and even in the bonds we develop with people. I love storytelling and I love books, and I feel there is really something in the experience of hearing a loved one read to us that connects and brings people together whatever the distance that separates them.Caroline, founder of Featherbed Tales
The concept that Caroline eventually came up with was the creation of a platform that provides recordable digital picture books for people who can’t be there at story-time. Now, as a children’s writer who understands the ins-and-outs of what makes a great picture-book for kids, Caroline knew she had one half of the project under control. But as for how one might create a platform that could house various books and voice recordings that can all be tailored to individual users? Needless to say, this was an entirely different story.
After a couple false-starts, Caroline came into contact with a previous Bad Dinosaur client who had been a fan of our approach to building the MVP (minimum viable product) way, and recommended that Caroline get in contact for a consultation and workshop. And after a few hours of workshopping during an initial meeting it quickly became clear to Caroline that Featherbed Tales and Bad Dinosaur were a perfect match.
The workshop for me was absolutely amazing. I have always been a supplier, so I have rarely been a client of anyone for anything, but I found this process truly amazing. We sat down, the four of us, for a few hours and talked through the various paths and ideas for the project. Everything was always transparent, consistent, and I could see immediately that their approach was exactly how I like to work.Caroline, founder of Featherbed Tales
One of the things that Caroline found the most exhilarating and important about those early fact-to-face meetings was that there was a strong output focus, so when she received the proposal for the platform it was clear, easy to understand, and most importantly provided detailed examples of the various user paths, all of which created the type of long-term outlook that she had been hoping for with her project.
Caroline then began meeting with Ian (lead developer) and Elliot (lead designer) once a week via zoom meetings to discuss the various features and design details of the platform. The team chose to create a Web App that allows users to choose from a variety of Caroline’s books and record personalised audio, so when the child turns the pages of their e-book, the narrated audio will play, thereby allowing the narrator to read to the child in a virtual format.
Working with Caroline on her vision was a delight, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the future takes the platform. By offering effortless creation of custom recordings of children's books, Featherbed Tales provides warmth and joy for families across the globe. Featherbeds vision to 'Bring Smiles Across the Miles' is achieved through simple and clear UX design and playful visuals that all children will enjoyIan, Lead Developer