How we created our iPad app for kids
We created The Phantom Clickerist because we wanted to experiment with creating children’s content specifically for the iPad with totally original characters and storyline with unique interactions fully integrated into each page. The result is, we hope, a beautifully illustrated, amazingly interactive experience for parents and children.
The market it still very young and people are still trying different ideas. How could we produce a product that makes the most of the iPad?
What did we want to achieve?
We wanted to produce a book that was still predominantly a storybook which encouraged reading, not simply a toy or game. But we wanted it to be really interactive, fun and engaging for children.
We didn’t want to produce a book in the traditional way and then add interaction. We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the project designing interactions that would take advantage of iPad technologies. We wanted the interaction in The Phantom Clickerist to help tell the story and not just be a bit of “sparkle” added at the end. Each page has a unique interaction, which is specific to that page. It serves a purpose. It helps tell the story.
And interaction is not just visual, it’s aural too. As we spent more time on the project the importance of audio became clear. 90% of all animation is sound. It’s that important.
A major challenge with the iPad is limited space. A traditional children’s book has the luxury of large spreads to allow a story to develop. (Lots of space for copy and visuals.) The iPad doesn’t. We distilled each page down to its essential elements, showcasing the action most pertinent to the story and removing anything superfluous. Space for copy is limited so brutal editing is needed.
Getting it programmed
The Phantom Clickerist took about 12 months from start to finish to produce. The majority of this time (9 months) was taken up with programming. Why did it take so long? Our inexperience and the “Wild West” nature of programmers.
Even though iOS is over 5 years old, the pool of good programmers who really understand interaction design is still limited. The good ones are busy and very picky about what they want to work on. This is a problem for a small, independent start up.
Unless you have deep pockets, freelance developers are the only viable option. And how do you find a good freelance programmer? Trial and expensive error. Our first experience with a programmer was a long and frustrating process and ended in strongly worded letters and threats of legal action.
If you want to do something, even slightly, different it’s difficult to assess the skills of a programmer. How do you know if they can achieve what you want? You don’t. And as most programmers won’t start work until you pay up front, it can be expensive. But it’s a sellers market at the moment and something you have to swallow.
We were lucky with our second developer. We found a team in Argentina, young but enthusiastic. Working remotely through email and Skype was a challenge but I think we got there in the end.
We’re really pleased with the result. We hope it’s something fresh and entertaining. It’s not perfect but we’ve learnt a huge amount and hopefully our next app will have a less problematic birth.
You can find the The Phantom Clickerist app on the iTunes store.