Interface critique – the Vtech Rhyme & Discover Book

VTech Rhyme & Discover Book cover

Created for:

  • Digital Media Design for Learning (DMDL) degree; Interaction Design for Learning course (Fall 2013).

Project length:

  • Short (one week, design document).


  • Matt McGowan (solo project/assignment).

This toy describes itself as an “interactive baby book,” and is meant for kids from 6 months to 3 years (though my daughter lost any real interest after age 2). In general, it’s got some interesting features, but I ended up hiding it away from my kids because, ultimately, I think, it fails in its professed purpose as a “book.”

The good

Affordances – decent

  • Its sturdy but flexible-enough construction allows for easy, natural, even slightly enjoyable page-turning.
  • The animal buttons on the sides of the pages are very easy to discover and use. They invite attention more than well enough and are solidly pushable. The “sliding” buttons on the interior pages also provide relatively easy discovery and use.
  • It succeeds in looking and feeling both like a book and like a toy.

Function and feedback – highly effective (unfortunately…)

  • Auditory and visual feedback are both highly responsive and engaging.

The bad

Mapping – the toy’s true undoing

  • The main culprits are the animal buttons on the sides of each page–which are, in short, a feature that serve as such a terrible distraction that it made me conclude that the toy is actually bad for kids. There is very little rhyme or reason to exactly what these buttons will do in any given situation–either say something about the animal or start the singing of a song on one of the facing pages (but which one?). These smiling animal faces flash during any and all actions and are simply too big to ignore. Given their size, it can even be difficult (for adults, let alone children) to turn the pages without grabbing/pressing them.

Function and feedback–conspiring to distract

  • The on-page slider buttons and the center (“binding”) musical note button also serve as distractions and are far from obvious as to their function. The pressing of any button anywhere on the device stops the current action (such as the singing of a song, which is meant to be done in conjunction with the words on the page) and begins a new one. “Reading” this book with my kids, I think I was able to get through just one song in its entirety about ten percent of the time.