"This is our fourth app. I - the teacher/illustrator/whatever- else-needs-to-be-done-person and my brilliant coder wizard/intuitive developer made it in 8 weeks. It took 20 pages of planning, 51 e-mails and $3,450.00 (for the coder).¨
The first real kid, outside of our test group, played it without getting stuck in the UI ONCE and still had a smile on his face when he had to hand it back. Many more smiles from approving kids followed.
Why is this app special you might ask? It answers all the questions a teacher, a parent and a kid might have with flying colors! First off, I spoke to a LOT of teachers and ensured that all requirements as far as curriculum etc. were met. Next up I needed to respect the safety issues parents might have. The 'Know What's Inside' seal of approval is worn with pride on all our apps, because parents know that this is a guarantee for safe apps for their children. Lastly the most difficult group to please is the kids. Because playing is how kids learn best- if they don't feel that an app is a game, then it is not worthy to be an Ace Edutainment App!
Like a true teacher, I always have several games that I simply MUST get in front of kids as soon as I can. I thrive on the creation process and my reward is the smiles and confidence a shiny new app instills in kids. My illustration skills have plenty of room to grow, but with each new app they get a little better. The design stage is the frantic period of sketching and illustrating followed by humbly laying my efforts in front of as many kids as I can to get inspiration and ideas on how to tweak the game. Next up I needed to get my coder-wizard on board. I sent him the intro to ask whether coding the app looks feasible. Since he has built 3 previous apps for me, I knew he would tell me if it would break my budget or not. Here is how I presented my plan:
Spelling Bug: Hangman
The world’s favorite word game just got a whole lot better. Play alone or with a friend. See if you can guess all the letters to spell the mystery word before the caterpillar chomps through the vine and makes the baby butterfly fall. Every time you guess correctly, the chrysalis will grow a little, but watch out, every time you guess wrong the caterpillar will chomp on the vine! You are in luck though—you earn coins to buy clues that will help you free the butterfly. Oh, and did we tell you that you can find your very own super cute avatar bug to play with?
The game invites you to play with your spelling words or you can use our list that will match automatically to your skills. Simply choose between easy, medium and hard and let the games begin!
I try to plan as comprehensively as I can. After all, the time your coder has to take to ask for clarifications is on your account!
No-one can see inside your head! I've never met my coder in real life, the only communication we have is via e-mail. Make your plan as clear as possible. If you don´t you will set yourself up for disappointment. My coder has a wonderful instinct of what makes a good game, and we do adjust gameplay according to his suggestions if it makes the game a better, FUN, educational app. However if there is no basis to work from, progress and creativity is hampered.
Here is a slideshow of the exact same plan I passed on to my coder. You are welcome to copy the concept. I'm sure many developers will have a better way of doing this, but maybe this will help someone develop another great app for kids!
While your game is being coded, it is a good time to take one last look at your competitors in the market. What are they doing well as far as App Store optimization is concerned? I never just do marketing shooting from the hip. If I plan a specific marketing activity, I look as what my competition did for the same activity and try and do that a little better. There are so many B2B companies out there that will promise you the moon and the stars, but you should look at the apps they already serviced and check if you really want the same amount of downloads as they have. Follow marketing strategies that got results, not marketers that make empty promises. Remember you might not launch on top, but with a good app, you can always climb a little every day.
I use App Annie to check other apps out - for downloads and ratings - before I pick worthy opponents to compete with.
I will never pay for a review (sad state of our business) if the reviewing site ranks more than 100,000 on Alexa.
I strongly rely on the knowledge of far more successful people in the educational app sector by following good blogs and belonging to worthwhile forums.
You will be surprised at how much kids can teach you. As often as I can, I would put my tablet and iPad in front of kids I do not know, then sit and watch from a non-intrusive distance. I've gotten so many of my most effective tweaks from airport kids, kids in doctors' offices and little sisters waiting at some sports event. I must be the freaky app lady! No, not really. I always chat to parents first, ask permission and have a sticker (to find my apps) and a choice of toys for the willing kid.
As far as working through the glitches, errors and bugs :) in our Spelling Bug games, again I try and be as thorough as I can in my testing report to my coder. I'll include short videos or screenshots of the offensive glitches where I can and ensure that I give problems priorities so that my coder knows what to work out first. Because of good planning, I am sure, we only had a couple of issues to sort out that took at the most 2 days. Here is an extract of the test report. The complete file is available on request:
The educational app industry is unique and challenging. Helping kids is my passion. I've been working as an Indie long enough to realize that this pursuit is far too valuable than just being in it for the money. Although there are many of my fellow developers that are convinced that there is no money to be made by small educational app developers, I have to believe that our children are more valuable than cookie cutter apps developed for business plans. In this world of wonderful new technology and breathtaking possibilities for new generations, there has to be a place for some of the knowledgeable, caring, personal educators that I have met over the years. I believe that for those of us who keep our passion alive, and keep building great educational apps for kids, there will be a financial reward too in the end. Even if it is not that grant or if it is not the most important motivation for us.
The App mentioned above was made by ACE Edutainment Apps Ltd. and is available on all App Stores. Look for Spelling Bug to find the collection!
Written by Charine Gey Van Pittius, Specialized Teacher
and App Developer.