Five Things to Consider Before Building a Great App for Kids

Kid Playing Mobile Games

By Len Forgione, Senior Project Manager:

Look out, folks! Generation Z (no, not zombies) is on the rise and children are learning to use a tablet or mobile device before they learn to walk or talk. As digital natives, they are the first generation to have internet technology readily available at a very young age and heavily rely on it for education, communication, and social skills. It’s the main way they gain access to information, as well as how they develop and maintain relationships. The days of “playing outside and coming home when the streetlights come on” is a thing of the past.

With today’s children living a technology-driven lifestyle, where nearly all communication and interactions are on a tablet or mobile device, companies are looking to build campaigns and products that are not only geared toward the younger generations but are also easily accessible on these devices. If you (or your company) are contemplating building an app for children, there are a few important things you should consider. For your convenience, we’ve listed our top 5 things to think about when creating a mobile app for children:

child-playing-pokemon-go1) THE BIG IDEA
Does it stand out?

What makes your idea innovative? Why would it appeal to children? Are the interaction and mechanics simple enough for a child? These are important questions that you must answer before beginning development. Do you want to create a fun game that will appeal to everyone? Would you rather create an educational app that aims to teach children – or maybe a mixture of both? Deciding what type of app to make is your logical starting point; the more original your idea, the more your app will stand out in a very crowded market. Moms and Dads also tend to look more favorably on apps that have some redeeming educational value and are more likely to purchase these because they’re getting their money’s worth.

2) WHO’S YOUR APP FOR?  baby-on-iphone
Know your age group.

Are you creating an app for small children? Tweens? Teens? All ages? The age group you’re aiming at will inform many things about your app, including the look and feel, the game mechanics or interactivity, how to market it and price it, privacy and information collection (see number 5 below) and even what store category it will be placed into. If you’re creating a game designed to appeal to all ages, the game mechanics should be simple enough that kids young and old can learn how to play without difficulty (think Angry Birds). Also remember: kids are “aspirational” – often younger children want to play games that are meant for older children. In order to keep younger kids, especially tweens, interested in your game, the difficulty should scale accordingly.

How does it look?

Children are highly visual and the use of vibrant and stimulating colors and characters is key to the success of an app. Children tend to pay attention longer to bright colors such as blue, red, purple and orange, while brown and gray colors are less appealing. Keeping designs simple with basic shapes and colors is a good way to ensure your app will be appealing to children. Font size should also change depending on the ages you’re aiming for; younger children like bigger letters and numbers. If your app needs a splash screen while it’s loading, it should be visually appealing or contain music that’s age appropriate so that children don’t lose focus. Faster load times are always better!

4) UX/UI
What are the experience and interface like?

The same design principles apply to the user experience and interface. The experience should be easy enough for a child to navigate through, and buttons should be large and easy to tap on. Younger children enjoy tapping around the screen and discovering things, so it’s worth considering rewarding such activity with sounds or animation. Kids should be able to intuitively know where they should go next in the app, and subtle visual cues in your app can help point them in the right direction (moving or dancing elements can show a child where to tap). It’s also not a bad idea to “childproof” the app navigation so that errant swipes don’t take children back to the main menu or out of the app. If you’re presenting information to children, be sure to present it in bite-size nuggets so they absorb and retain it.

Respecting children’s privacy.

If you’re creating an app for kids under age 13, you cannot collect any PII (personally identifiable information) – it’s the law! COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), signed into law in 1998 and overseen by the FTC, ensures that those creating apps cannot collect personal data from children. If you’re creating an app for kids under 13, make sure you consult your friendly neighborhood COPPA expert to ensure that your app is built with COPPA in mind!

Most major app stores also now have requirements for apps aimed at kids under 13. This includes:

  • No behavioral advertising (can’t serve ads based on user’s activity within the app)
  • Parental permission or age gating (i.e. a math problem) required for sections of the app that link out or engage in commerce (microtransactions)
  • If you are considering listing your app in Apple’s Kids category, your app must fit into their age ranges.

This list is meant to get you thinking about making apps for kids, but it is by no means all-inclusive! There’s a lot more we can talk about but we know you’re busy looking for cat memes. If you are interested in following your dreams and creating an awesome app for kids, start by reviewing our handy list and then drop us a line to talk more about it!