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New Website & Application Launch: Sparkle Stories - Online Audio Stories for Kids

[Web Development, UI/UX Design]
Sparkle Stories Home ScreenshotAs we've discussed in other recent posts, the web is trending less toward traditional websites and increasingly toward custom sites that are connected sophisticated applications. Applications that, for example, offer customer/retailer interaction, portals for community engagement, customized eCommerce solutions, etc. The possibilities are really infinite, but are generally designed to increase user experience, productivity or interaction of some kind. If you have a need, an app can be developed to meet it and at Vermont Design Works we're proud to specialize in custom web application development, because it allows us to work on great projects like the new Sparkle Stories website we launched just last week. Sparkle Stories is a place where children and families can download and listen to high quality, original audio stories. For the uninitiated, Sparkle offers single stories as well as sample packs of 3 stories from their various popular series. Most customers, however, choose to purchase series subscriptions. Subscribers receive new stories every Friday. Here's how Sparkle explains their subscription option:

how does a subscription work?

Sparkle Subscribers have their own unique log-in that opens a Story Box on the Sparkle Site.  Each week, subscribers find fresh stories in their Story Box, ready for download. Downloaded stories can be played on a computer, mp3 player or iPod, or can be easily burned onto a CD .
Obviously this is a really cool and unique idea all around, but it's the custom solution Sparkle needed us to build that piqued our interest. But based on the description above it should be clear that this wasn't just any old static website. Setting aside the fact that you can download mp3s of the stories, we needed to develop a member area/login system where users could access stories they purchased. But it's even more complex than that. With the subscription stories coming out weekly, the system needs to post the next story in a series to each individual user's account based on when they signed up. In Sparkle Stories' own description, they referred to the "Story Box". As you'll see in the member area screenshot of the application below, we developed a system that would house each type (single stories, sample packs, and subscriptions), and include a fourth section to list all stories that the user marked as a "favorite": Sparkle Stories - Story Box Obviously allowing for these various purchasing options required that we also build a flexible and sophisticated online billing system (one-time purchases, recurring payments for subscriptions, etc.). The website and billing system even allows users to purchase Sparkle Stories as gifts, with a variety of options: Sparkle Stories Gifts Of course with anything like this comes the need to integrate registration systems, password recovery options and automated emails (account confirmation, etc.). Clearly, even just from the customer side of things, this custom application had to provide a lot of functionality, far beyond what the average website provides. But that's all only the front-end, customer side of things. We're also in the process of developing an easy to use back-end administrative area for the owners of Sparkle Stories to use to manage their own website and products. For most sites we provide clients with access to our own very robust and feature rich content management system, ContentWorks, but in the case of Sparkle Stories, a top-to-bottom custom solution was necessary. Check out the new Sparkle Stories website and let us know what you think: Do you need a custom web application for your site? Maybe you just need a solution that you haven't quite conceptualized yet? Whatever the case, we'd love to talk to you about your needs and options. Contact us today so we can discuss your web project.