Our 10 tips for making kids apps

I wrote the following tips for our app presentation at the ‘Contentertainment’ seminar at the Bristol Encounters film festival. We were so busy showing our apps that we ran out of time to go through these tips! It was kindly hosted by Wonky films : a Bristol based animation company who look at new digital trends every year.

1) Build a portfolio

Take a long term view. There are high points when you release an app (if you’re lucky) and your app can move very quickly out of the charts. Try not to cry too much at this point, but persevere and build up a portfolio of apps.

Therefore it’s essential to keep releasing new apps to get noticed and stay in peoples’ minds. You need quality and quantity to ensure your apps are more discoverable. If a customer likes one of your apps, they are likely to buy another one or more right after they discover you, so the more you have the better.

2) Find your Brand and selling point

Develop a portfolio of apps in a house style. Spend time on your screenshots and icon. Work to high standards and spend time on the details and little touches. It makes a difference and it’s what the Apple brand is all about. We play to our strengths and spend time on the graphics recording original sound effects.

3) When should you invest in marketing?

Wait until you have a substantial set of apps before you look into ways of marketing. It can be ineffectual, so better to spend your time making some great products.

Once you have a popular app, it will help to sell your other apps, so your sales should multiply. It’s a bit like the music biz – keep going until you get a hit.

Review sites are now inundated with apps, so you need to send your app for review months in advance. Many charge for a ‘speedy review.’

4) Testing is vital

People use touch screen devices in different ways. What’s obvious to you isn’t obvious to someone else. A 3 year old in the park once taught me about the 5 fingered swipe, and that my hit areas were far too small.

If you’re designing for the kids market, ask parents what they think, and what they would like to see. An understanding of the age range you’re targeting is key, and that’s something we had to learn.

5) Make it fun

Fun learning is a big selling point. Kids get bogged down with homework, so apps should be fun first, and education second. You want kids to enjoy it and play more than once. Add storytelling to your apps. Children love to be challenged, and give them a reason to do a learning task through storytelling. Emotion goes a long way!

6) Respond to your audience

If you’re lucky enough to get reviews, it shows that you have at least made an impact. You will get both positive and negative, which you can learn a lot from.

While most people loved our second app, many parents complained it was too short. Some wanted randomization. Take on board the criticism, but try to ignore those mean customers who leave 1 star!

Tactics: update your app with more stuff, and launch at the same time as a new product.

7) Is it worth Localizing your apps?

USA is by far the biggest market. Creating foreign language versions of your app is time consuming, and the smaller countries may not pick up on your app. On the Appstore you have no control over where your app is displayed, so it’s a risk. Unless you are targeting a particular country, adding multiple language support may not be worth your time.

8) What level is your gameplay at?

Kids perceive apps as a game. Book publishers are now competing with the games industry and indie companies are making fully interactive 3d stories. Kids of age 6+ are play Nintendo DS games and even Angry Birds on their parents’ iPhone. Their expectations are now sky high. For this reason we started out making apps for the 2-5 preschool age group.

9) Don’t rush it

Perfect and refine your app as much as you possibly can before launching it.

Particularly with Apple, you may have only one chance to get noticed and featured. Try to get it mostly right, even though bugs are bound to appear on your first version. Rushing an app to market that isn’t ready can lead to some unmerciful reviews, which could give your app a very bad start!

10) Experiment

Everything about the touch screen medium is experimental. The app game is a lottery in the beginning, but experiment, learn what people like, and hopefully you’ll stumble on a winning formula. The app market is so unpredictable, there’s just no way to bank on what will be popular with people. So the only thing you can do is have a go, and enjoy the journey.

Say Hello!

If you would like to say hello for any reason, please email us on our contact page. We may be hiring a Flash AS3 games developer and 2D game artist in the near future, so feel free to send us your work samples if that’s what you do!

Resources:

www.momswithapps.com       (very helpful global app community)
www.appbackr.com        (crowdsourcing for funding your apps)
www.mattwasser.co.uk      (my Flash tutorials and design work)
www.digital-storytime.com      (eBook review site with a good blog)

 

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