Where to Buy Experience
How I designed an interactive toy finding experience for 30 million kids on Disney’s Club Penguin
In autumn of the 2009, I was given an incredible opportunity. As a fresh graduate, I joined Club Penguin in the role of a Web Designer. If you were a kid (or a parent to one) a decade ago, it’s likely you’ve heard of Club Penguin; an insanely popular MMORPG (massively-multiplayer online role-playing game). So popular, that in 2007, Club Penguin had 30 million user accounts. Kids from around the world logged on to play mini-games, earn virtual money, chat and role-play, build and decorate their igloos. They even threw block parties and helped Disney donate millions to real world charities. This, among other things, was the incredible world of Club Penguin. Its appeal was wide reaching, and could be attributed to many things; such as it’s interactive game environments, memorable characters like Rockhopper and their legendary stories.
The problem and opportunity
To help kids continue their online experience offline, Club Penguin offered a vast array of merchandise — such as plush toys for every character, playsets, outfits, books, and even furniture. For a Club Penguin player, receiving their favourite Club Penguin item from their parents and grandparents was a top request. Unfortunately, it was difficult for anyone to know which stores carry the specific toys and items they were looking for. Today, this problem doesn’t exist thanks to services like Amazon. But think back to 2009 when stores barely had rich websites, let alone online stores where you could see the merchandise. While we could not build out an online e-commerce store or a detailed catalogue, we did want to help parents and kids find the toys they love and adore in the real world.
Understanding what kids and parents want
We started by inquiring what mattered most to kids, parents and grandparents. Kids told us they wanted to be able to see all the merchandise, while parents said they wanted to see what’s available at a store near them or be able to see their options at a glance. For grandparents, the ability to print out the store names and merchandise was important.
Some technical and logistical considerations
Stores selling our merchandize were located all around the world, as was our target audience. While it would’ve been amazing to show dynamic information about inventory at each store, it wasn’t feasible for us to build it. Neither did our users truly expect that level of functionality.
Our goals for the experience
Allow the user to select merchandize to view where its available and vice versa.
Use geo location, but allow the user to change region, to anywhere in the world.
Simple enough for kids of various ages to intuitively understand and use.
Allow the user to easily find it on the Club Penguin website.
Fit the Club Penguin Design system and Web brand guide.