There are a lot of apps for kids in the app store, so many that even an exceptional app can get lost (or buried) not long after launch. So how do parents & educators find good apps for elementary school age kids (and younger) to download onto their iPads, iPods & iPhones? Over the course of several weeks I’ve been asking friends with mobile devices, educators on Twitter and fans of our Facebook page just this question. I think their responses are really interesting and informative for app developers. This list is in addition to the information in Part I – Marketing Kids Apps (Part I) – 3 Things No Amount of Code Can Fix.
Below are a selection of quotes from book app shoppers about what criteria they use to select children’s apps:
LITE VERSIONS – Many shoppers say they rely on free or trial versions to guide buying decisions. While some consumers find partial book apps unsatisfying at times, most admit that when it comes to paying for an app, a lite version can really help them decide to buy. The key to not annoying customers with only part of the story is to put ‘lite’ in the title – a well-informed customer is a happy customer!
“When an app is more than a dollar or two, I always check to see if there is a lite version before purchasing. Apps like the Nosy Crow 3 Pigs & Cinderella are awesome, but I wouldn’t have paid $6 for them before seeing the sample.”
“I didn’t like lite versions of book apps when I first encountered them a year ago, but now I’m willing to sample a book … so long as they say in the title or description that the whole book isn’t there.”
“Most of (the paid apps I download) for my child … are based on the trial version experience, I prefer to ‘demo’ or try the book first to see if we all like it!”
“I try to find out if there is [a free version of an app] that I’m interested in … I download these lite versions if available, and definitely will buy the full version if I like the preview.”
“I … download the lite version to try with my boys. If they aren’t interested, I usually don’t get the full version.”
“I don’t usually ‘discover’ an app with the lite version, but often I find myself curious about an app enough to check for a free sample. The final deciding factor before I download is based on searching for this trial version or a video review if no lite version is available. After a thorough preview, I feel certain enough to spend those few extra dollars on the paid version.”
SCREENSHOTS – The visual impression of an app goes way beyond picking a great icon, as shoppers often look first at the images available before reading anything else in iTunes. Since illustrations are a big part of book apps in particular, these images are essential. When thinking about purchasing a book that is totally original, not based on a fairy tale or book available in print, this becomes especially important.
“It really matters what pages you can see on itunes, if an app has great screenshots I’m more likely to consider buying it.”
“I probably care more about the screenshots than anything else, if I like what I see, then I read the description next.”
“When looking for (kids book apps) I gravitate toward the illustrations … I prefer something that is hand-drawn, not computer generated … (the illustrations should be) colorful and well put together.”
“The illustrations & the (overall) look of the app is … important … I want to see how much attention it can get (from my kids) before deciding to download an app.”
“I look at the preview pages to see if I like the illustrations and more importantly, if I think my little ones will be engaged by the illustrations … the illustrations need to be strong.”
” … the graphics are what catch the eyes of kids the most, so … beautiful illustrations … and outstanding graphics are the winners!”
“(If developers were to ask for my advice in marketing a kids’ digital book) … I’d tell them to … make sure you have good quality illustrations.”
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH A DEVELOPER – As a reviewer and part of the app developer community, I often take what I know about a developer’s other apps into consideration, but I must admit I was surprised to find so many comments from ordinary consumers that echoed this same strategy for searching out new apps. The iTunes “Developer Page” is very important as it turns out!
“I look for books that are developed by someone (my kids and I) already like, by looking at ‘other apps by developer’ in (iTunes) I can be sure I will get something of quality.”
“When the book is in a series, I pretty much know the quality of books that are written by a company.”
“I like to look at what the developers past apps are like … with all the factors (I find) what makes the purchase much easier is knowing the developer by their previous book apps/reviews/awards or having tried one of their previous book apps that was a huge success.”
“I work from what I know of previous books from the same author or app producer … this previous knowledge of a developer makes the (decision-making process) much easier.”
iTUNES REVIEWS – Developers I’ve talked to over the year seem to have a love/hate relationship with iTunes reviews. They struggle just to get anyone to write a review and then sometimes there are bad reviews that are based on things a developer has no control over (like platform issues, OS updates, device specifications, and unrealistic user expectations). I can remember one really nasty review for a kids app that basically said, “This game is stupid – it’s just for little kids!” when it was an app made for little kids. But despite these difficulties, having a nice set of decent iTunes reviews can make a big difference for any app and shouldn’t be an afterthought. These reviews can benefit developers & consumers if the reviews are detailed, unbiased & plentiful. [A future post will be dedicated to creative ideas for getting reviews.]
“I really pay attention to the iTunes reviews … did people get what they were looking for (or) maybe even more? Were there any serendipitous things in the book not mentioned in the description that made (the person writing the review) feel it was well worth the money.”
“I read the reviews … and am always surprised when (an app) that has been out for months has NOTHING … that puzzles me and sometimes I just assume (that the app) must be really bad (if no one) has taken the time to even rate it, let alone put in a few words for a review.”
“I always look at the reviews before downloading. I even do this before checking out a free app since it’s a waste of time to wait for it to download when the quality isn’t there.”
“When I buy new book apps I read the reviews first (in iTunes) and if they are really good that is usually enough (information) for me to decide to take a chance on something new if it isn’t too expensive.”
“Even if I think my kids will like an app, the reviews on iTunes & elsewhere (are) the most important factor in my decision.”
“(I find that) good reviews & ratings on iTunes help(s) me make the decision to buy.”
REVIEW WEBSITES – Every developer hopes to get their app reviewed well by consumers on iTunes, but getting reviews doesn’t stop there. The popularity of app review sites like Digital-Storytime, SmartAppsforKids, AppAdvice, FunEducationalApps and theiPhoneMom have been a great help to both consumers and developers. The reviews help good apps stand out and also provide parents & educators with information they need to decide if an app will be a good fit for their kids. Some of these sites, like TechinSpecialEd & iEAR are also good resources for finding apps that meet specific learning & IEP goals. Sites like AppsforiPads & A4CWSN also provide nice video reviews.
“(I like to) see what I can find out (about) the reputation of (an) app by looking at several reviews … if sites I’ve come to trust say good things about an app, I’m much more likely (to buy) it.”
“Before spending my hard-earned money on an unknown app, I read reviews … (and) look on A4cwsn for a video review if one is available … I loooove Gary James a4cwsn site for reviews.”
“I look at the reviews to see how they would benefit my daughter, especially (information) on ease of use for … special needs.”
“I read reviews. Because several different children here use the ipad I look for variety within the app … i.e. games, animations and such.”
“I get as much info as possible! Reviews from sites I like are very important … I’ll wait to buy until someone reviews it. Even if I’m pretty sure it’s a great app, I like to be sure.”
“The first qualification is that it will meet some or many of my student’s IEP goals … review sites that (provide IEP information) help me see if it will be a good match for my speech/language students.”
“… ideally any reviews of (an app) that I can find help me decide to download, esp reviews from a trusted source …”
“(I find that) reviews (are) the most important factor, especially by people who have a similar way of thinking to mine.”
“I read as many reviews as I can find. I also look for word of mouth recommendations from friends and I look at (Digital-Storytime’s) reviews daily.”
In addition to these comments, many consumers also mentioned considerations about price, the content of the app and other features that will be part of the third and final post in this series. Stay tuned!
And what aspects of kids apps catch your notice enough to consider downloading? If you are a developer, what have you noticed about this emerging market?