It’s amazing to watch a young child play with a touch device, they may seem to “get it” right away. At least up until they are confronted with menu full of buttons labeled with words they can’t read.
Young children don’t have a preconceived idea of what it means to tap, or swipe, or that there’s a microphone in the device, or that only one little point of one hand should touch the screen at a time. They rely on trial and error and cues from the app to work it out.
Whether using characters to welcome and guide children through an app, providing audio and visual feedback on their actions, scheduling timeouts to gently re-state the task after an interval of inactivity, giving credit for partial completion, or making allowances for unintended multi-touch, there are many ways to maximize children’s engagement and minimize their frustration.
There are also best practices to guide to the many small choices app designers need to make, such as the most and least intuitive gestures for user interaction, or for menu and other element placement. And there are legal considerations for what content to hide from children or include for parents, and how.
In this session I’ll share a case study of building Monkey See Monkey Do, an app to help children with their daily routines which won first prize at the inaugural Berlin Geekettes Hackathon. I based the app on an analog tool that I had been introduced to by a specialist, for use with my son when he was a toddler. While I knew plenty about building interactivity and iOS development, this was my first time creating an app for children. So I educated myself in the best practices – through the literature, by directly observing children, and by taking an analytical eye to my vast library of children’s apps. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned in the process.
Designing an app for children is a great way to get into beginner’s mind, and may well change the way you approach building apps for all ages.
Kathryn Rotondo is a freelance interactive developer for web and mobile.
She honed her craft at the large interactive agency Schematic, where her projects included high-profile clients such as Vogue and Target; and a small startup, litl, where she designed and developed third party APIs for a new device. She has taught Actionscript at RISD Continuing Education, co-wrote Adobe AIR in Action, and speaks internationally (PFCongres Netherlands, CodeMotion Germany, Flash on the Beach UK, Multi-Mania Belgium). Her numerous awards include recognition as an Adobe Community Professional, and most recently, first place in the inaugural Berlin Geekettes Hackathon for her iOS app Monkey See Monkey Do.
A Huffington Post Girls in Stem mentor, Kathryn is passionate about encouraging women developers and curates http://equalitism.tumblr.com.
Originally from Boston, MA, USA, Kathryn now lives in Tübingen, Germany. She can be found online at http://kathrynrotondo.com and on twitter as @krotondo.
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