How NOT to Build Kids’ Apps

Even with successful experience in launching applications to the market, you may face challenges deciding to enter the market with an app for children, as this area has its own peculiarities.

We at Software Focus have analyzed different companies’ experience as a whole (both positive and negative) and compiled a list of mistakes that a development company is likely to make when launching kids’ products to the app stores.

1. Focus on a single audience

In the segment of children’s products, the user and the person who decides to download or purchase the application are different people. The parent buys a product (or a subscription to it), and the child consumes the content. The child wants the application to be interesting, while the parent wants it to be useful and safe. The parents want the app to contain educational features, while the child wants the app to have gamification or an engaging storyline.

If you are targeting an audience of parents of kids aged below eight years old, it is a mistake to try to make a choice between learning and fun. If you swing the pendulum to either side, you may lose one of the audiences. Therefore, it is important to maintain balance. Demonstrate to the parents that your addictive app has educational value.

Numerous A/B tests have found that the conversion to subscription is higher if you put a stronger educational part at the beginning, and shift an entertainment component farther away.

At the same time, keep the child’s attention with the help of interesting gameplay and characters, an exciting plot, and interactive mechanics.

2. No focus group research

You need to validate that you have correctly identified the needs of the parents and whether your product will be able to “cover” these needs. Strictly speaking, you need to talk to the parents’ audience from an ideation stage – even before you hire the first developer. Especially if your product offers a completely unique experience not offered by any other similar apps on the market.

On the other hand, you should test on children all the games that come out to make sure that the product is understandable and interesting to the audience. Kids look at the world differently than adults, and you probably will not be able to predict in advance what will turn out to be “wrong”. Field tests on kids may find that your application has a too confusing interface or too small buttons; that the characters lack emotions; or that you have added very few interactive elements.

Show the children the MVP of your app first, and then the first stable version of the application. Without full life tests, you will never be sure that your ideas are really worthwhile and you will not be able to consider that the work on the product is over.

3. Consider all kids to be the same

Be clear about the age of the child for whom the product will be designed. Keep in mind that kids change quickly: they get new skills, interests, and areas of expertise, which makes them interact with apps in different ways. Even a two-year difference can be critical: always remember that a three-year-old and a five-year-old are completely different children with different needs and motivations!

Why is it important? If you don’t define your target audience from the very beginning of your app dev project, it can be very difficult for you to:

  • Formulate the problem your product solves and create an in-demand solution and relevant content.

Children of different ages love different things. Eight-year-olds are already building their own worlds in Roblox and Minecraft and trying to outsmart other players in Among Us, while four-year-olds will love an app where they can be a pastry chef or a salesman. And at different ages, children can and know different things (this is worth remembering if you’re going to build and launch an educational product). For example, a four-year-old child can use a gamified alphabet memorization application, while seven-year-olds can learn simple math operations in a playful way.

  • Develop a product promotion strategy.

If you are targeting preschoolers, then the decision to download the application lies entirely with the parents. But even at the age of eight, many children independently discover new games or cartoons with the help of videos on YouTube, and when choosing “what to play”, they are guided by the opinion of friends, not mom and dad. That is, the child begins to influence the purchase decision (and the older they become, the higher the degree of their influence). Therefore, the age of your target audience will entirely determine how to promote the product, where to promote it, and what kind of communication messages you need to use.

4. Consider all kids to be different

If you are developing an application for an American audience, for example, children in Spain may not like it. Of course, there are cultural differences between countries, and every child is unique in their own way. But, from the point of view of behavioral psychology, children from different backgrounds are mostly similar to each other. And even if you have a learning application, educational standards and beliefs about what a child should be able to do at a given age have more similarities than differences.

5. Use complex animations and graphics

Creating 3D animations will cost you several times more than 2D ones. At the same time, the 3D boom seems to be over in the industry of children’s applications, and there’s a clear trend to simplify even 2D graphics.

So you will be on trend by choosing a simple solution. The very fact that the application uses simple or complex graphic solutions and animations does not give any idea whether the child will likes the application.

It is much more important to find your own unique and recognizable style, which at the same time will allow you to speed up your content production. In short, doing well does not necessarily mean doing hard. And if you doubt that children like simplicity, think about “Peppa Pig” with its deliberately primitive (and awesome!) yet highly engaging graphics.

6. Infinitely improve the application instead of launching it

Don’t delay your app launch until the app is perfect. It’s recommended that you launch a simple app version first, gather user feedback, fix issues and bugs, and scale the app later after it gains traction with the target users.

Children are less picky than adults. What is critical for an adult in the application is fun for a child. You need to quickly send the app to production, simultaneously testing it on children, and improve the application right “on the go.”

7. Set up a large development team

It may seem that the more people work on a product, the better and more successful it will be in the end. In fact, at the initial stage, you need several people, some of whom, perhaps, will be “wearing several hats” – this is absolutely normal for a young startup. Most teams behind successful games started with three to five people on their teams and scaled as their product evolved.

8. Skimp on analytics and marketing

The quality of the decisions you make depends entirely on your app’s performance.

Be sure to introduce a culture of A/B tests mentioned above. It is important to analyze every step of the user and constantly test different hypotheses. Tests must be carried out correctly, waiting for the statistical significance of the result. Otherwise, you may draw the wrong conclusions.

Going back to the previous point, it’s better to start investing in analytics and marketing as early as possible rather than aggressively expand the product team. The main thing is to learn how to sell an idea and an application, and without good specialists in marketing and analytics, this can be extremely challenging.

By leveraging the right marketing mix, you can push your app to the top of the charts faster and more cost-effectively. As such, hiring a marketing consultant either on a full-time or freelance basis should be as important for you as hiring the right developer profiles.

The days are long gone when it was enough to place a product in the App Store and configure the App Store to optimize the app’s search results. There is fierce competition in app stores today. To prevent your product from getting lost in the crowd of kids’ apps, be sure to develop a quality marketing strategy, and start testing it with the MVP as early as possible.

9. Ignore the requirements for kids’ apps

The App Store has much stricter requirements for apps for kids than for adults. For example, you cannot use third-party analytics services in a kid’s app to collect user behavior data. This means that you need to look for some other solutions: perhaps develop your own analytics systems.

10. Target a single country

Many young projects want to conquer the US market. However, if you launch, say, in the United States and your product doesn’t take off, it would be a mistake to stop there. Don’t be upset! There are less competitive markets (for example, for your product it may be Latin America or some other region), where your application will be in much higher demand, and it will be easier and cheaper to build an effective promotion. Yet, you may need to pivot from your original app idea and used enhanced localization to succeed with an app designed for different geography.

11. Avoid localization

You can start capturing a new market by testing an application with content in English. But then, when you understand that there is a demand for the product in different locales, proceed to localization.

Scaling without localization is bad because it affects the metrics: retention will be lower. LTV, respectively, too. Localization is especially important if your product is intended for young children who do not speak English as a second language. And also if the children cannot read, the main content in the application should be delivered through voice acting.

12. Ignore networking

It is a mistake to focus only on product development and assume that when the money is needed, you will quickly find investors. Do not forget about the financial part of your project, analyze in advance what funds you will need and at what point.

To attract investments, you need to constantly tell potential partners and investors about your project (even at the idea stage) and maintain established relationships, send updates about the progress and achievements of the team. In a nutshell, networking is one of the responsibilities of a founder, and should not be neglected.

Stay tuned with Software Focus!
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