Getting Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the App Store


Published on

Targeted at kids media content creators who want to produce iOS apps, but lack programming know-how and funding.

Presented to Women in Children's Media, on the campus of Teachers College, Columbia University, August 3rd, 2011

Getting Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the App Store

  1. Getting Ideas Out of Your Head AND Into the App Store TRACI LAWSON AUGUST 3, 2011
  2. Producing Apps on Your Own In children’s media, we’re used to tiny budgets. We often say “There’s no money!” But what about when there’s really no money? How do you get started? PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL MAYNE
  3. Sales It’s important to not expect to make money. If your app is 99¢, you retain 69¢ from each sale. Sales in the App Store often look like this: SOURCE: TEN TOED, INC.
  4. Competition in the kids’ app market As of August 1, 2011, there were a total of 449,581 apps available in the App Store 73,181 are in the ‘Games’ category. That’s 16.28%. 39,922 are in ‘Education‘ category. That’s 8.88%. SOURCE: 148APPS.BIZ
  7. Top Sales Numbers in ‘Education’ Top 10 = 200+ sales / day Top 25 = 100+ sales /day Top 50 = 20+ sales / day Top 100 = 10+ sales / day SOURCE: RUMOR
  8. Things to Keep in Mind Rumor is that the ‘per day’ is calculated as an average of the past three days. One great day is not enough to really throttle you to the top. When Apple features an app somewhere on the front page of the App Store, that will affect rankings in that category. There’s no editorial board for what app goes in which section. In ‘Games’, developers may choose two sub-categories. A lot of apps in ‘Games - Trivia’ list themselves in ‘Games - Educational.’
  9. App Annie You need an account to use, but it’s free. Allows you to study the rank history of any app in the store.
  10. Quick Thoughts on Pricing Generally 99¢ and $1.99 yield similar sales volumes. $2.99 and $3.99 cause a sales taper that mean less overall profit. Another popular thing to do is make your app free, but... in-app purchases are the bait and switch. they usually make money through embedded advertising. You can’t control content of the ads. They’re colorful and eye-catching to young kids, and touching them takes you away from the app.
  11. Still want to do this? Examine your idea and why it makes sense for mobile. Does it take advantage of one or more of the following? Portability Touchscreen - Don’t just port a mouse click experience! GPS Accelerometer or gyroscope Camera PHOTO CREDIT: TRACI LAWSON
  12. Still want to do this? What will your app offer that isn’t in the App Store already? The App Store already has a lot of: Alphabet apps Number / Counting apps Flash Card apps Multiple Choice quiz apps Jigsaw Puzzles Concentration games DO SOMETHING NEW!
  13. Excuse This Rant About Sticker Pages Expected rewards reduce intrinsic motivation. They place focus on the reward, and take away from the inherent joy of the activity itself. (Deci, Koestner & Ryan, 1999)
  14. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate! Before you seek out developers to talk to, solidify what you want to build. PHOTO CREDIT: MARK ANBINDER
  15. Talk It Through Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea with trusted colleagues and parents. Simply speaking your ideas aloud will help you think of things you hadn’t thought of before. Others will have ideas on how to make it better. Maybe they will relate useful stories. FURTHER READING: NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR COOL GAME IDEA BY MIKE BIRKHEAD
  16. Paper Prototype Depending on your concept, it might be possible to test out parts of it with a paper prototype. This will help you to: Make sure the content is understandable to your target age. Test out flow of certain activities. May not be practical for all ideas! PHOTO CREDIT: SAMUEL MANN
  17. Interactive Prototype You can use tools to build your app without any code! Picture Link for iPad, $2.99 inVision App, free trial, $8/month PHOTO CREDIT: INVISIONAPP.COM
  18. Usability Testing Make sure kids find your app intuitive. You won’t be there when someone downloads it from the App Store! Take advantage of the portability and get out there. Places to test include: kids’ homes, parks, airports, children’s museums (if they give you the OK first) PHOTO CREDIT: CHRISTINA APP
  19. Usability Testing Explain to child & parent that you’re not testing them, you want to test this thing you built and whether or not it’s good. Plan ahead - Make a list of what behaviors you hope to observe, and places you suspect there may be trouble. Don’t say a word! If the child looks to you for help, ask “What do you think you should do?” Have your hint script prepared, so you can test that out, too! If too many kids ask, tweak your design and test again!
  20. Usability Testing Once you have a feel for how much time the experience should last, try a shorter time with the next kid. Now that they’ve played with, and hopefully liked your app, you’ve broken the ice! If time allows, ask a question or two about their favorite apps, or other favorite things (animals? colors? sports?) that might relate to your app. FURTHER READING: APPROACHES TO USER RESEARCH WHEN DESIGNING FOR CHILDREN BY CATALINA NARANJO-BOCK 5 TIPS FOR FANTABULOUS KID TESTING BY ANDY RUSSELL USABILITY TESTING WITH CHILDREN: A LESSON FROM PIAGET BY SABRINA IDLER VIDEO: TRYING VERY HARD TO MAKE GAMES THAT DON’T STINK BY BARBARA CHAMBERLIN PHOTO CREDIT: MAKEDA MAYS GREEN
  21. Tips on iOS Design for Kids Design the tutorial first. Think early about how to make sense to a new user. The best tutorials don’t feel like tutorials! Angry Birds doesn’t have instructions. Why would you? This applies to lengthy video intros, too! The player is here to play, not to read or watch a video. Limit use of text or voiceover direction to the bare minimum. Get to the action right away. Don’t make the screen too busy - simple is best. Visual clutter is confusing to the user.
  22. Tips on iOS Design for Kids Make sure the app loads fast. Don’t make the user wait. Correct touches should let you know right away. A simple sound effect works wonders to tell the user they’re doing the right thing. If touches don’t effect action in about 1 second or less, they will feel like they’re either incorrect or broken. Limit use of “good job,” “way to go,” etc. It’s a video game, not a phone call with Grandma.
  23. Tips on iOS Design for Kids Eliminate buttons that take a child away from the experience. Don’t use pop-up notifications! Not only are these a nuisance, but they likely lead to a page that’s adult- directed. This is for the kids, right? If you app offers several mini-experiences, design to sustain attention in each one. Touch and hold buttons avoid accidental navigation. Tally Tots did this brilliantly.FURTHER READING: TODDLER APP USER INTERFACE GUIDELINES BY GABRIEL WEINBERG APP REVIEWS AND ARTICLES IN CHILDREN’S TECHNOLOGY REVIEW PHOTO CREDIT: GENTA MASUDA
  24. Writing the Design Document This is where you describe to the developer everything that needs to happen. Don’t be frightened; you can write it in plain English. You might write your first draft before you create your prototype. The design document: defines the idea in explicit detailed language. The goal is to remove ambiguity. sells the concept to the developer as something she’d want to invest her time in.
  25. Writing the Design Document Sections to Include: Target User - Kids? What age? Their parents? Curriculum or other goals User actions / Game progression - this is the largest, most important section Scenarios Art and audio assets needed Special cases - what happens when phone rings, incoming txt, user quits app, etc.
  26. Target User Be specific. Could just be an age range, but you might also want to define: Where the user is. For example: park goers, students in school, museum visitors, etc. Special audiences. For example: siblings, children and grandparents, children and families with a specific need, etc. PHOTO CREDIT: MATTHEW H
  27. Curriculum Be specific! This could be a great opportunity to show your expertise off to a potential development partner. A programmer might look at your plans and just see a reading app, or a math app. Talk about your approach. Include fancy terminology and cite research studies, if you know any of relevance.
  28. User Actions / Progression Be VERY specific. Programmers like literal language. Be thorough, but be clear and precise. It’s your job to make it as clear as possible. Start with the program launch, and write a numbered bullet for each action. List events the program triggers, and events the user triggers, in sequential order. Write branches for things that can happen out of sequence, or instances where more than one thing might occur. This section will be edited a lot as you rethink your plan, and conduct user testing. Define the challenge structure. Does your app grow more challenging? How, and what triggers it? HINT: YOU CAN COPY A TEMPLATE.
  29. 2.3 Game Progression2.3.1. We begin with 60 seconds on the timer, and 000000 points in the point counter.At game start, there are 0 frogs on the screen.2.3.2. As soon as the game screen loads, the first frog enters the game screen on theleft lilypad. He stays for 20 seconds and hops off.2.3.3. The second frog enters approx 7 seconds into the game, by hopping onto theright lilypad. He does this regardless of whether or not the first frog has been fed. Healso stays for 20 seconds and hops off.2.3.4. When a frog hops off screen, he hops back on in approx 6 seconds.2.3.5. The game starts with one red firefly, one yellow firefly, and one blue firefly in thesky. The player pushes flies together to mix secondary colors such as violet and green.See section 3.2 for more detail. When two fireflies mix to form one fly, the two colorsthat were used are instantly replenished. They fly in from off screen.2.3.6. When a frog is fed, it is replaced by another frog of random color. A fed frogadds 100 points to the score, and 3 seconds to the timer. Frogs eat when a firefly ison-screen that matches their own color.2.3.7. Level 1 continues at this pace until 7 frogs are fed. After 7 frogs have been fed,we enter Level Level 2 utilizes the third (center) lilypad, and the tertiary colored toads. A fedtoad adds 200 points to the score, and 5 seconds to the timer. Level 2 includes 2toads and 8 frogs. In Level 2, frogs and toads still stay on screen for 20 seconds, hopoff and return after 7 seconds offscreen.2.3.9. In Level 3, the time on screen begins to decrease. Time off screen remainsconstant. During Level 3, frogs and toads stay on screen for 18 seconds and returnafter 7 seconds. Continue to remove 2 seconds until we are down to 6 seconds onscreen, 7 seconds off screen. (This means we plateau at Level 9.)2.3.10 As we increase Level numbers, the number of toads also increases. Level 3should have 4 toads, 6 frogs. Level 4 should have 6 toads and 4 frogs. Level 5 shouldhave 8 toads and 2 frogs. Levels 6 and up should remain at this mix.2.3.11 The game is over when the timer runs out. (See 2.5) When the timer has fewerthan 5 seconds left, it flashes red and triggers a panic sound effect.CONFIDENTIAL – Registered with WGA-ECopyright ©2009 by Traci Lawson Page 6 of 13
  30. Scenarios Similar to the progression, but brief. This should read like a short narrative story of what a user did while they were using your app. In games, I usually call this a ‘Game Flow Summary’. Often comes before the Progression in the design document. I find I usually write it first to help myself define the experience. After the progression has been completed, I go back and edit this down.
  31. Art and Audio Assets These sections can be a bulleted list of the art and sound that will have to be created for the app. List only unique art files. If art is reused in multiple sections, note that, but only list it once. Note animations. Audio assets might include: Sound effects and the events that trigger them. A voice over dialogue script. Use a separate document, if lengthy. Don’t forget to define whose responsibility it is to produce the audio content.
  32. Special Cases Define what happens when the progression is interrupted by: User quitting. What happens when app is launched the next time? There’s an incoming phone call. A text message comes in, or another app displays a notification on the screen.
  33. Other Materials thatAccompany the Design Document Wireframes and/or a Storyboard Tool options include: Keynote, PowerPoint, Mockingbird, Gliffy, or just use still images of that prototype you built, and label the features! Flow chart Pretty standard, but very simple user experiences like Frogs and Fireflies or Move Like Me may not require them. Tool options include: Visio for Windows, OmniGraffle for Macintosh or iPad, Gliffy
  34. Prioritize Your Features Chances are, budget or time limitations will cause you to cut back somewhere. A priority list will help your programmer know which core features to concentrate on, and which are of less importance. PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL EMERSON
  35. Art & Graphic Design Good art isn’t everything, but it’s close. It’s a major key to getting featured by Apple. Greatly adds to the wow factor. When customers are browsing the App Store, you have seconds to impress them. Kids are sensitive to art. If you look ‘too baby’ or too complex and sophisticated, they won’t feel the experience is for them. Know what your age group likes.
  36. Finding a Programmer Now that you’ve gone through a couple of prototype iterations, it’s time to hunt for a developer. But where to start? Talk to your fellow WiCM members. Many of us know people. Talk to people who’ve already produced apps. Get to know local college students. Look for events where they show off their work, and attend. Networking works better than reaching out on web forums. Rapport is very important.
  37. Finding a Programmer Do I need a developer who has built something for iPhone before? Experience is great, but usually pricey. Devs may be willing to work for less money, if they have a personal goal of getting an iOS app on their resume. Devs who know Unity, Unreal, and Torque can also publish to iOS without learning Objective-C. Do it yourself with GameSalad? Now that you have a pretty solid design document, register it with the WGA-East. (Do this before you talk to developers.)
  38. Incorporate? Apple only licenses developers under a legal name. You have to give either a social security number or an EIN Protection against being sued personally? (I’m not an attorney.) Lets you give contracts and payments to your team members as a business.
  39. Getting Started with Your Team! Give them contracts. Make it official. Have a meeting. Don’t be too worried if you don’t understand all the technical terms. As long as the programmer and artist understand each other and agree. Write everything down and send a follow up email reporting the decisions you reached.
  40. Expenses to Budget For Business Incorporation $500–1000, plus $160 NY filing fees Contracts : $1000–1500 Art & Programming: varies, get quotes depends heavily on project size Apple Developer Program: $99/year
  41. You are the marketing department! Get active on Twitter. To get started, find a few people you know and check out who they follow. Don’t just talk about your own projects. Bring value to the conversation about children’s media. Blogging Start your own blog, or just reach out to kids app bloggers. Get a Facebook page for your business.
  42. More Thoughts on Marketing Choose smart keywords. See what is selling at your launch time and consider planting a few strategic trendy words. Advertisements are a waste of money. They just cost too much for a 99¢ or $1.99 product. Marketing could be a whole hour session on its own. It’s a big time commitment. Check out the resources on: Moms With Apps (Not just for mothers!) Blog and Forum are both excellent.
  43. Android? 79.3% of the paid apps in the Google Android Market have fewer than 100 downloads! (Source: The Amazon App Store has a bad reputation in the development community as being unfair to developers. NOOK Color and upcoming Amazon-branded tablet device might be platforms to consider. Consider whether or not your goals could be achieved with a mobile-friendly website. (Although, that won’t make any money at all.)
  44. Special Thanks The following developers generously spoke (or emailed or tweeted!) with me in preparation for this talk. Please check out their apps! Andy Russell of Launchpad Toys Caroline Hu Flexer of Duck Duck Moose Gabriel Adauto of Motion Math Ian Chia of Being Prudence Steve Glinberg of 123 Apps