Client State Library Victoria

Helping bookish teens stay engaged with reading and writing

The Challenge

Help State Library Victoria innovate a product that would connect with teens, and encourage them to pursue their love of reading and writing into adulthood.

The Outcome

An age-gated, youth-led blogging platform that helps bookish teens connect and share their passions.

What we did

  • User research
  • User personas
  • Ideation and prototyping
  • Co-design
  • Customised WordPress development

SLV asked Squareweave to conduct exploratory research with teens. They needed to better understand the needs of this notoriously challenging target audience.

We spent time gathering insights from “bookish” young people, interviewing them in their homes or at the Library. The aim was to understand their tastes, challenges and frustrations in talking about their book-related interests online.

We also conducted a survey of 125 young people to help fill in any gaps from the interviews. All the comments and observations from the research were distilled into key themes and opportunities.

During the research, it became clear that the teens we spoke to often shared commonalities of behaviours and interests. These common traits were usually linked to age and gender, but not always. We learned that that the choices young people were making were often driven by the behavioural state they were in.

These insights helped us to understand that the point where teens were most likely to become disengaged was in their early to mid teen years. This was the time where young people were most susceptible to peer pressure. If bookish teens didn’t have any friends who shared their interests at this stage, they were more likely to give up on their reading and writing hobbies.

Other themes that emerged from the research included:

  • Connecting early with young people can help prevent disengagement with reading and writing.
  • Contact with professionals in the writing and publishing industry was highly valuable – teens with this experience were more likely to consider literature related career paths as viable options.
  • Meeting peers with common interests is crucial for teens when it comes to sustaining an interest in reading and writing.
  • Getting started online – both finding a community and sharing work – is challenging for kids and teens (even with access to social media).
  • Teens across the board had low levels of confidence in their abilities as writers and creators.

To put these findings to use, we held a design thinking workshop with CYL and SLV team members. Together, we applied the insights from the research. We engaged empathy and storytelling to help us brainstorm ways to help teens connect with peers who shared their interests.

The result was a vision for an overhauled Inside a Dog website and tailored blogging platform. The individual blogs would be highly customisable, to allow teens to express their personality and make the space their own.

Once the vision was clear, we collaborated with SLV and CYL to make the new platform a reality. We embedded team members at SLV to create a combined project team, and worked in Agile sprints to bring the new site to life.

The new Inside a Dog website is a youth-led community, with features designed to appeal to audience needs. It’s a supportive space where teens can mature their writing skills, get advice from industry professionals, and connect through their love of books.

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