How to choose good educational apps or interactive books in online stores

Posted by on Jun 22, 2012 in Articles | Comments Off on How to choose good educational apps or interactive books in online stores

Nowadays, finding good educational apps, or even interactive books for children, can be a hard and long task. Of course we can be guided and aided by the reviews and comments of other users on the app store, blogs, but to evaluate the overall quality of children’s apps and e-books we must pay close attention to a variety of aspects, starting with the product icon or the general design of the app and ending with the child oriented usability.

It’s always recommended to try the digital app before giving it to the child. That way, we can not only check the content and the logical steps behind it but also find possible escape points that can make the child exit the app unintentionally. We should also test the navigation and interactions like if we were a child (this may not be an easy task, but the whole idea is to explore the less obvious steps in the interactive app or book, the sensibility to repeated and erroneous touches and many other tests to correctly evaluate its behavior)

We should not limit ourselves to children’s apps and books that are merely a direct translation of what we can find in a traditional printed book, but instead, search for something new, challenging and surprising to us. Also, avoid only focus in the ones fitted for their age as many times we underestimate the child’s learning and comprehension capabilities. A good app for kids is one that not only teaches but also learns, adjusting its challenges to different levels of difficulty according to the progress of each child, which can greatly vary in children within the same age.

We’ve been finding a lot of somewhat intrusive apps, mixing poor design with integrated shopping strategies, causing not only the disruption of the child’s learning process in the middle of the game, but also for them to make unwanted online purchases. In order to prevent this last issue it’s safer to use the devices offline.

Usability plays an important role for an educational app or interactive book, so it’s always better for the app to feel right than to appear to have been well made. Is it easy to navigate? Is it well structured? Is it simple? Is the design appealing? Children deserve all that.

The quality of the texts, the essence of the story are paramount in interactive apps for kids. It’s important not to forget that a children’s world is being constructed based on what we show them and their perception of reality comes from a mutual learning process with their parents, making the correct choice of words extremely important for educational apps and books.

At the same time, all interactions must feel natural. The story’s path must be led by the narrative and not by a random mixture of interactions and animations determined by the devices’ technical capabilities. These elements should always be in line with the story and somehow highlighted if not immediately obvious. The balance between showing a hint or simply suggesting its discovery is something not easy to establish.

In the end, the true evaluation of an educational app or interactive book will be measured by the child’s responses and reactions to it. It’s the best barometer! So if they start to gradually lose interest or if the app turns out to be so difficult that children become impatient, this means they don’t feel comfortable with it, which is most likely caused by flaws in its conception.

Humberto Neves
in Noticias do Parque