Bologna Children’s Book Fair hosted it’s inaugural Dust and Magic Masterclass today (Sunday 23rd March) with speakers including John Cromie, Chief Technology Officer from Touch Press and Kate Wilson, Managing Director from Nosy Crow. As our host Walter Buckleit had coined, in this space “there are no experts there are only explorers”, but as representatives from some of the top-grossing children’s apps to date, it is interesting to hear their reflections on the past four years (or so) of app development.
1. It’s hard to reflect the quality of your app in the pricing
If you want to create the best, and Touch Press is certainly a company consistently producing incredible apps, then production costs are obviously going to be high. Pricing becomes an issue as in the iPad environment it seems that paying £9.99 for an app is perceived as like paying £99.99 for a book. Communicating the value of app production to consumers is a major challenge. There appears to be an industry-wide problem on the semantics of what is defined as an app, with widely differing ranges of quality, depth of content, etc.
2. Our fixation with ‘touch’ functionality is probably a phase
We’re obviously looking a lot at how touch can be used in storytelling now, but gestural and voice recognition will be making a bigger impact soon…
3. “Children have developed expectations of multimedia and interactivity and response from screen”
This is a Nosy Crow principal adhered to in all of its projects. It’s not about adding bells and whistles to existing books but creating new kinds of reading experience suing multimedia and interactivity.
4. The kids are in charge
Warren Buckleitner, Editor of Children’s Technology Review, warns that children will “home” you if your app is not pleasing over all, including visually! Those fickle kids – beware! Kate Wilson also reminds us that as creative technologists, we might think we have great ideas but “we will never, ever catch up with children’s imaginations”.
5. Brands have a distinct advantage in this space
The brand advantage skews everything. Nuff said.
6. The new Apple children’s category has impacted in different ways
The new children’s category in the App Store has been advantageous to some but not to others. It makes it difficult for apps aimed at wider audiences to be found. For example, the Disney Animated App from Touch Press is in the children’s category for ages 9 – 11 year, but could be enjoyed by any age group. For educational kids apps, however, the new category offers an advantage enabling carefully selected learning content to get to exactly the right age group.
7. Consider your Contingency budget!
There was an audible intake of breath when John Cromie, CTO from Touch Press underlined that 30% of any app development budget needs to be set aside for contingency and iterations. Yes, that’s 30%.
8. Build a Super Team
Both Nosy Crow and Touch Press stressed the importance of building a super-team in order to give your app the best chance of success. This has to include everything from animation expertise to marketing expertise.
9. Think about what kids respond to best
A Nosy Crow example: If you know that children listen more intently to an older child than an adult, then consider getting kids to recite stories. Children rather listen to other children than their mums.
10. Size doesn’t matter (slightly contradicting #8…)
We were treated to a range of innovative projects during the session created by small production teams. Imagination, creativity and master story-telling are still key!