There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to educational apps for children.
The most important one is to determine your target audience. Most kids today have access to a tablet or a phone from year one, but there is a large difference between a two-year-old, a five-year-old and a twelve-year-old. You always want the interface to be intuitive, but depending on their age, you might want to add a thorough tutorial and have little reminders including audio explanations. Big buttons and bright colors can help it be more accessible, but making a few tests with children themselves and getting their feedback before launching is definitely recommended.
Looking at the design, it is helpful to remember how younger kids strongly identify with different fictional characters and use that as an advantage in your storytelling. At an early age, things like your favorite color or animal are really important, so you want to have multiple options for personalization, and also diversity, so that your app isn’t necessarily gender-oriented, but the choice is left to the kid. For older kids, it’s better to use a human or humanoid protagonist, since they’re more likely to identify with them, rather than a pet or an object, and you are free to have a more sophisticated interface.
An option for tracking progress could also be useful, since it works as a reward system for kids and helps build their confidence, but it is also an easy way to show the parents an overview of the learning process and the manner in which your app is contributing to an increase in knowledge acquisition.
Through the app, you should have a reward system relying on smaller tasks that label the child's success with positive adjectives. When it comes to mistakes, avoid demoting, such as lowering the score, but rather point to the mistake neutrally, without creating potentially high stress situations. A second system of reward should be an overarching one. About twenty years ago, kids used to play with devices that would allow them to see the growth of their digital pet through regularly feeding and taking care of it, so it was a big shame if the battery was about to die, since there was no way of saving the data. Analogous to that, what could be a motivator to use the app daily is having the progress represented as a growing tree, an animal, or map of the Earth which is growing and becoming more complex.
Age is also an important factor when it comes to marketing. If you’re aiming at younger children, you want the ad to be targeted at parents, so it’s important that it consist of descriptions of things like quality and safety, since most parents will be the ones installing the apps for their kids. If you’re aiming at school kids, or kids that have reading skills, you can be more creative with your ads in order to attract them.
Lastly, when considering pricing, if the app is intended for younger children, it’s better to charge for the app purchase as a whole, rather than in-app charges for extra features. This is more suitable for older children who can ask their parents for permission, so don’t risk your app getting uninstalled because of expenses incurred by child by accident.
Keep doing research, and good luck with your app!
Teodora Rešetar - Contributing writer