There are infinite variety of applications, be it online or offline, that are meant to be used by just adults. Children are often ignored when it comes to developing an app which actually encourages them to learn or develop certain mental skills. It’s no secret that those who grow up playing specific kinds of applications and games are more likely to enhance skills like:
1. Communicating with others
2. Observing others’ viewpoints
3. Predicting how would others react in accordance with their own behavior
4. Controlling emotions
5. Resolving disagreements
Although, keeping a tablet or a mobile phone literally ALL the time actually does the reverse but if children are precisely monitored by their parents and given a time limitation, they could utilize certain hours to learning as well as entertainment.
Designing and developing a full fledge application for children seems easy but is even more complicated than developing for adults. This is because children are visual creatures and quite more fond of colorful environments. They also least likely read anything which they see on the screen, even if some of them, say 6 to 10 year olds, know how to read. For even younger children, like those who fall into 2 to 4 years of age need to understand by watching what’s inside, through visual representation. If they understand nothing at all they would be easily distracted . So, it is extremely necessary to take note of the age group for whom you are designing and developing, in order to make it a real success. It would be a waste of time and money if these young users don’t appreciate your work even a bit!
Observation and Planning
Most programmers think that they know what a child’s needs are because they too were children once upon a time but they fail to realize that there is a huge generation gap and hence the thinking patterns differ. Also, it all depends on each individual, what age group they fall under, and most importantly the gender part. A two year old’s application would be drastically different from a six year old, to that of a ten year old. Girls likely prefer princesses in a castle, unicorns, etc.; boys, on the other hand, would set their football goals. There may be certain types of games or other learning apps as well that would likely fascinate both genders.
One needs to observe those children for whom he/she is about to design. They must take notes of their likes and dislikes, the kind of individuals they are in real, the measure of their active self and curiosity. Some children really like to solve puzzles, others like to read story books; some will always admire racing games, boxing, wrestling, shooting, and so on.
If you are to design the puzzle games you must first analyze a child’s mental ability to get a general idea. It is possible that some children score better than other, belonging to the same age group. You may set levels starting from easy to medium to difficult, so that they stay encouraged and focused. You may also develop an application that teaches them how to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using figures like monkeys, apples, birds, etc. You may avoid traditional boring methods and apply storytelling (preferably by using graphics and sound/voices). For instance, your story could be like – “There were 2 cows living under one roof but 1 cow didn’t like the other because she was more beautiful, so she left the house. How many cows are there in the house now?”. Use animation to explain precisely, such as by actually enabling those 2 cows fighting with each other.
You also need to take advice from their parents as well because certain kinds of apps seem too harsh and frightening, having stuffs like fights, injuries, pistols, blood, etc. The children might like it but parents wouldn’t allow.
At this point, you need to monitor the app’s functionality that if it is working the way you expected, do your young candidates like using it; what feedback they gave you or what they thought, whether their expectations were really met or it was other way around, what changes they likely want to see, and so on.
Some children wouldn’t tell you directly because they are smart enough to sense your ‘teacher mode’ (or simply because they are unfamiliar to you as an individual) and will act according to your expectations, even if they don’t like using it. In such a case, observe what they speak in front of their pals. You may bring more children into one room, but do not let them know that you are actually listening them. The more free they feel, the more they are going to speak their honest minds. Skip this part if you are still designing the app and haven’t get it ready yet, else those young folks would confuse you. Once you complete it and launch it in real time, you will soon get to know what sort of modifications could be made to improvize.
Rewards are necessary even if it is just a gesture like a big cute smiley, a picture of a trophy, or graphical representation of coins earned for each stage’s reach, etc. This makes them stay motivated to play or learn more, and it is quite certainly a sign of improvement. The parents or teacher or guardian can thus keep a track of their learning ability and that would enhance their self confidence.
As I said earlier the graphics, colors and all kinds of visuals are admired by children, it is a very necessary step towards the ladder of success. If it doesn’t look good, they will abandon it for sure. And for that you have to take feedback from children only. Show them by speaking like “Look I am about to show you a really cool app!”. Children don’t act diplomatic if they are confident creatures. They WILL tell you if that ‘cool’ app isn’t that cool! If they are one of those who are shy in behavior, their body language will tell you what’s up with them. Obviously, the interesting things are continuously used and they wouldn’t handover the device to you. Quite an obvious indication, isn’t it!
Last but not the least, only real-time experience and practice would make you perfect. Do not hesitate to initiate but rather face the challenges and always have an optimistic attitude and a clear-cut agenda to improvise. Your success isn’t a distant dream if you really want to do this. There will come a point when you are going to get familiar with their needs and become literally proficient. Till then just be positive and stay focused.
Author : Ankita Purohit