|Title:||United States survey percentages of mothers regarding how much they spend on apps by price bracket in 2011|
|Source:||Youth Markets Alert|
Start of full article - but without data
HOW MUCH MOMS SPEND ON APPS
[Less than] $.XX (XX%)
[Greater than] $X.XX (X%)
SOURCE: Mom Central Consulting
Note: Table made from pie chart.
Apps are swiftly becoming an essential part of children's media diet. Three in four moms (XX%) let their children regularly play on their smartphones, with games (XX%) as the most popular app category for children, followed by education (XX%) and entertainment (XX%), according to Mom Central Consulting. As the app industry continues to evolve and mature, companies are learningthat children'sapps carry unique challenges and opportunities.
Why Are The Birds Angry?
Children's apps generally divide into two categories: book-like story-telling and game play. The former transfers printed books into the digital realm, while the latter develops games and activities based on a character, property, or brand. "You take the titles [or brands] that are already strong and resonate with the audience and add a level of interactivity. You don't reinvent the wheel," says Natasha Fishman of Hit Entertainment.
Children's apps, as compared to those for adults, are driven by the brand. "In order to break through the clutter, you need some recognition," says Fishman, noting Hit's most popular downloaded apps feature Angelina Ballerina, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Barney.
Young-skewingapps need stronger animation and story-telling threads than adult-targeted ones in order to keep young user's attention. Kids want to know why the birds are angry, whereas adults don't need a reason to instruct birds to destroy pigs' homes. Bright colors and large graphics are also important to capture young users.
It's essential for child apps to be fully immersive with the ability to read, listen, and touch throughout the entire interaction. Scholastic specifically calls its book apps "Touch and Tilt" to emphasize the accelerometer and touch screen functionality, says Scholastic's Caroline Fraser. Similarly, Sesame Workshop's animated books, created and marketed by Moving Picture Books, combine story narration, music, and sound effects.
Too Hard? Too Easy?
One of the more challenging aspects of creating apps for kids is ensuring the program remains relatable to the player when a three year age span means the difference between drooling on the device and downloading the software independently. "We offered a Thomas Tilt and Go game that didn't perform as strongly as we would have liked because it was too complex. It was hard for them to tilt the device around," says Fishman.
In navigating the tight divide between apps that are too simple and too complicated, content providers recommend skewing toward the basic. "Our top three [activities] are puzzles, matching, and painting. One might think it's too simple, but they just work really well," says Fishman.
Likewise, Scholastic selected science content for seven games for its Magic School Bus app "that illustrate complex science concepts that are more easily understood through interactivity than in print," says Scholastic's Fraser.
Another popular option to expand the user base is to root the app in personality traits rather than competitive play patterns. Hit's Angelina Ballerina app, aimed at X-X-year-olds, focuses on makeovers. "We think of activities that are common to all girls. Who doesn't love to dress up?" asks Fishman.
No Tolerance For Error
Another key challenge specific to those who develop apps for children is making sure these programs serve their purpose, especially those that claim to be educational. Pity the company that introduces an app that inhibits--rather than helps--children learn to read.
For Sesame Workshop, conducting research rivals the time it takes to actually develop the app. Sesame currently offers only XX iPhone/iPad apps.
"An app developer recently asked me why we didn't just release [an app] and update it from there [as users provide feedback] like they do for adult apps," says Sesame Workshop's Mindy Brooks. "I had to tell him that's not the way we work at Sesame. We have to make sure the app functions at every stage before we release it. We also have to conduct in-depth research to know it provides some educational benefit before we begin selling it. We don't look at apps as a work-in-progress."
The lack of a universal platform is another obstacle frustrating many within this category, and not just within the kid space. Thus far, the majority of apps are Apple-based. Hit, for its part, hopes to expand beyond Apple to Google's Chrome platform by the end of the summer. (In addition to Android, Google has a Chrome platform as well.) Sesame hopes to convert its apps to Android and Nook platforms later this year.
Expanding beyond Apple's platform is delayed in part because many app developers are experts in only one format, say content providers. The one who understands Apple'sIOS isn't familiar with Amazon'splatform or Google's version. This forces content providers to locate and work with numerous developers. Fortunately, at this point, most view apps as an exploration or fun project and treat it as such.
What Works In Kid Apps
Kids and parents may download an app based on the character or brand, but functionality is just as important. Developers outline several design components necessary for a kid-friendly app including:
* The button instructing the user to turn the page needs to be a "double tap" rather than a single touch since kids typically punch their fingers all over the screen.
* Younger children need a very large visual arrow signal to prompt them to turn the page.
* There shouldbe no actionor activity before the text is finished loading to ensure the child is focused on the literary aspect of the app.
* "Hot spots"--areas of the screen or textthat areinteractive--need to be active throughout the entire screen and as large as possible.
* Wait times need to be as short as possible; kids have no patience.
* Book apps should last no more than seven minutes; childred tend to lose interest after that time frame.
* Sound effects need to be timed correctly as kids are unable to process that a sound may come before a visual element. For instance, kids will be confused to hear a train whistle without seeing the train.
* Full voiceovers with synched highlighted text benefit early readers, but it'simportant to allow this feature to be turnedoff for those children who are able to read fluently on their own.
* There's no consensus on the most effective format for displaying text. One option displays only the word being said and then disappears as the next word appears. The other option displays the entire paragraph and highlights the word as it moves. Sesame is currently conducting research that it hopes to publish in the fall weighing in on the most educational format. "We really don't know which one is better. I think the second way may be more effective with older kids since it teaches them that reading involves entire paragraphs. Maybe the other way helps younger kids learn vocabulary words," says Brooks. [TECHNOLOGY/EDUCATION]
CONTACTS AND CONNECTIONS: Hit Entertainment, Natasha Fishman, SVP Brand Management, XXX Park Ave. S., XXth Fl., New York, NY XXXXX; XXX-XXX-XXXX; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.hitentertainment.com.
Mom Central Consulting, Tracey Hope Ross, VP Research, XX Chapel St., Newton, MA XXXXX; XXX-XXX-XXXX; email@example.com; www.momcentralconsulting.com.
Sesame Workshop, Mindy Brooks, Assistant Director, Domestic Research, One Lincoln Plz., New York, NY XXXXX; XXX-XXX-XXXX; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.sesame.org. Also, Jennifer Perry, VP Worldwide Publishing, email@example.com.
Scholastic, Caroline Fraser, Executive Director Interactive, XXX Broadway, New York, NY XXXXX; XXX-XXX-XXXX; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.scholastic.com.
RELATED ARTICLE: APPS AND CHILD LITERACY
Even though research is on-going on how apps are evolving relative to children's developing literacy--are kids reading at earlier ages because of these devices?--there have been two recent discoveries:
* Children are more familiar with what a word means when its conveyed through an app or digitally rather than in print.
* Digital books motivate kids to read more frequently and increased reading time leads to stronger vocabulary, reading comprehension skills, and fluency.
HOW MUCH MOMS SPEND ON APPS
[Less than] $.XX (XX%)
[Greater than] $X.XX (X%) ...