Creating educational experiences that appeal to young minds is difficult and holds a weighty responsibility. Making our first ever app, Dragon Shapes, was a steep but fascinating learning curve for Lighthouse Learning.
For anyone interested in what goes into the making of a kids’ educational app, our team share some thoughts on the making of Dragon Shapes.
As with any new product, our first step was research, which meant playing kids apps a lot. This told us what works and doesn’t work and what types of app have been done before. We also created a private Facebook group (called ‘The Lighthouse Keepers’) as a way to get input from teachers and parents.
- It’s useful to understand both good and bad apps
- Input from real parents and teachers is vital
Prototyping allowed us to check our basic design was sound before going ahead. We used web-based prototypes which were relatively quick and easy to make and test. We also used tools such as POP app and Balsamiq for quickly wireframing simple screen sketches. This helped iron out the flow and navigation.
- It’s ok to borrow design elements that work well
- Iterate lots before coding to get the best product
Making Quality Educational Content
Dragon Shapes contains geometric puzzles and an accompanying story. With a combined 55 years experience in education, we understand the importance of pedagogically sound content. We still found it a challenge to create original and engaging children’s stories – it’s a craft that should not be undertaken lightly!
- Expert advice on educational accuracy is vital
- Good kids content takes time and effort
Developing for Kids
Every member of the development team has a real passion for kids content and products. Experience making stuff for kids and having kids at home really saved time and avoided second guessing. It also informed our design decisions – it’s easy to underestimate how different it is designing for kids compared to grown-ups.
- Parent developers and people with experience make a huge difference
Play Testing with Children
Even the most childlike minds in our team couldn’t foresee how children would react to our app. Our play testing sessions uncovered positive and negative aspects of our app along with some interesting findings such as the fact that kids ability levels can vary wildly in a small age range. Some kids intuitively know what to do and have the fine motor skills for precise touch interactions while others need support. We were able to optimize features and also learned the most suitable age group for the app.
- Avoid assumptions and treat testing as a fun experiment
- Play testing sessions need to be carefully structured for children’s needs