As a follow-up to my initial blog post on the most important design elements in children’s apps, I wanted to highlight some of the apps that best meet these criteria. To recap, the article’s main point was that the best children’s apps are platform-agnostic and employ embellished cues (implicit user instructions), simple actions, and clear feedback (to indicate that children have accurately performed an action).
Ollie the Cat
iOS rating: 4.5
Google Play rating: 3
Ollie the Cat is an application designed to teach preschoolers how to count. The app is illustrated by the internationally acclaimed Tim Warnes.
All the icons feature cues that help children discover the next action step they can take. Icons either sway/shake from side to side, or perform an animation to indicate which areas of the screen can be tapped.
The main action used within this application, is the tap, which is very easy and intuitive for children to perform. However, my only reservation with Ollie the Cat’s design is the animated arrow (stretch and squish) that children have to swipe in order to get to the next screen.
This can be misleading because the stretch and squish animation usually leads a child to think that this button needs to be tapped. Secondly, swiping is not as intuitive as tapping, especially for preschoolers, and it should always feature a tutorial visually illustrating to children how to perform the action (e.g., an animation showing a hand swiping the screen).
This app also provides very clear types of feedback for children. Each of the icons reacts to every tap: generally, it features visual (animation) and audible (sound) feedback that demonstrates to the child that he/she has performed an action.
In the following example, after the child taps on the frog to count it, it sways from side to side, Ollie narrates the number (if the ‘Read to Me’ option was selected), and it disappears while making a popping sound. This visually and audibly illustrates to the child that he/she has performed the action correctly.
Aside from this minor flaw, Ollie the Cat proves that good design for children’s apps can go across platforms.
Numbers, Addition and Subtraction by i Learn With
iOS Rating: 3.5
Google Play Rating: 4.5
Tribal Nova has created a series of English and Spanish learning apps. Numbers, Addition and Subtraction is a game designed to teach math to kids in preschool and kindergarten.
Numbers, Addition and Subtraction effectively features cues for children, such as glowing and animated buttons to illustrate touch. On the homepage of the application, the three menu options glow in timed intervals to implicitly indicate to the children that these three elements of the screen are interactive.
The only action within the app is the ‘Tap’; the most common and intuitive action for children. Being an app for younger children, it uses the easiest action to understand and perform, without needing an explicit demonstration, but rather a simple cue such as an outer glow.
Clear types of feedback for children have also been implemented well within Numbers, Addition and Subtraction. For example, let’s examine the ‘Count’ section of the application; when the child counts correctly, the chipmunk in the game performs a celebratory gesture such as a hop or a dance, and a checkmark appears across the pot in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
When the child selects the incorrect number, the chipmunks perform a fun self-deprecating animation, such as biting the wooden plank or hitting themselves in the head with the plank.
This a great example of easy, fun, and encouraging feedback for children that combines audible (sound) and visual (animations) feedback to correct and incorrect actions.
If high ratings are any indication, parents clearly agree that the app is a hit on both platforms.
Google Play: 4.8
Gummies Playground is a collection of teacher-approved, curriculum-based, educational games designed for preschoolers.
This application also effectively employs very clear cues for children such as stretching/squishing buttons (increasing and decreasing in size) or swaying/shaking icons. Here are a couple of examples of how these cues were used:
Similar to Numbers, Addition and Subtraction, Gummies Playground is extremely simple to navigate. The only action used within app is the ‘Tap’. There is no use of complicated actions such as swiping or dragging and dropping.
Gummies Playground also utilizes audible and visual feedback to a child’s tap or selection. In the ‘Matching’ section , when the child selects the incorrect answer, the audible feedback is a voiceover explaining what the selected icon is and the visual feedback is an enlargement of the icon. When the child selects the correct answer, the audible feedback is encouraging phrases such as ‘Well Done!’ or ‘Good Job!’, and the visual feedback is an animation of stars around the selected object.
Ollie the Cat, Numbers, Addition and Subtraction, and Gummies Playground are all indications that children’s apps can incorporate the same important design elements across platforms. They adhere to the principles of embellished cues, simple actions, and clear feedback, that are engaging and appealing to children. These examples allow for a better understanding of the elements of well designed children’s apps, and through them we can gain insight into the future of children’s apps.
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