Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Change of Plan!

We are happy to announce that we are about to launch a new app! Yay! We are also announcing that our last app isn't doing as well as we'd hoped, in either its Addition or Subtraction variants. Boo! The market seems to have changed. People are so used to apps being 'free', although most usually aren't... you end up paying somehow, that people just aren't willing to pay even a couple of pounds / dollars / euros for a great app.

We know that people liked our app, because we gave it away for free one day and had around 2,500 downloads! They just don't like paying for it! I talk to other kids app developers and they are finding the same thing.

If I had made apps targeted at adults (games, calendars, weather, photography) the solution would be simple. Put some adverts in the app and make some money with every view and more money with every click. However I personally don't like adverts in kids apps. Even if I know my kids aren't going to click through and buy anything, they occassionally hit an advert by mistake and end up confused about where their game went. I don't suppose advertisers really like kids apps either because they must get a lot of false clicks.

So the solution is 'in app purchases'. This is a bit of a dirty word in some people's minds. They fear children will rack up huge bills buying in app currency. Done responsibly though it can work really well. Our in-app purchases will allow us to give some content away for free, allowing everyone to give it a try, then if they really want more content or features they can buy some, and hopefully that will give us enough money to carry on making great apps. We will protect the child by requiring a parent gate answer to leave the main game.

So watch this space. There should be a new app patch app family member in a couple of weeks time. We think people are going to love it. It's based on space and the Solar System. If offers unique functionality, and you get the first third of the planets for free! After launching that we will work to convert our other apps to this model too. Hopefully everyone's a winner.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

New app, New beginnings

Has it really been this long? This blog has been rather neglected, but should be used a bit more from now on. How have you been?

So the hot news is that we have released a new app Mathsplat - Alien Addition which is our most complexed app to date. Please go over to to see all about the app and watch the preview video, oh and please buy a copy!

They say that marketing for a product shouldn't be negative, so I have bitten my tongue on the AppStore description and our webpage, only saying our app offers something better than most other apps. I am going to say here what I feel - In reality a lot of other 'educational' apps just don't seem to get it! When I first started designing this app I looked at what was out there, and what I found were apps that...

  • Only offer multiple choice answers to the user. Why? Well I think it's easier to program that way, but in life we aren't given the answer, so that was the first thing we did differently, allow a freeform answer. Also most apps require you to type in the answer and then hit a submit button. We found a way to not need a submit button, making things simpler.
  • Are dry and unengaging. Many maths apps treat the exercise much like a maths test, and are about as interesting. Kids (and adults) don't just want to be given a list of questions, it's got to be fun. The iPad offers so much functionality for great interaction, so why not use it? Our app is REALLY fun, and funny. Kids laugh and snort when they play our app!
  • Reward kids with stars, virtual stickers (graphics that can be moved around the screen), coins, gems, or a predetermined game that the child can't influence (yes you Squeebles!). This is so lame! Kids don't want to collect gems (only adults do stupid things like that! yes you). So the reward in our app is FUN! Get a question right and the slime rises... kids know what's going to happen, the anticipation is great for engagement. Answer five question and splat, you get slimed. All kids love that. Then for each round of five questions you collect a rocket stage, and then you can launch your rocket! Fun, fun, fun!
  • Offer no education. An educational app without education? Well you could say that practice makes perfect and any app that allows practice will help the child learn, but why not go further than that and offer ways to help the kids answer the questions? Our app does that. Kids can apply several different techniques through interactive guestures, which will help them answer the question. By doing this they will learn to use these techniques in their head. We also point out to kids when they see a 'number fact', that is something important to learn. These are things like the pairs of numbers that make 5 and make 10. If you learn those you can then approximate the answer to the nearest 5 and solve from there, a technique kids should do without thinking.
  • Rely on written instructions (yes you Squeebles!). Kids who are first learning addition also can not read very easily, so giving them a long amount of text to read is just making it more difficult for them. Again it's easier to program that way, and you don't have to spend hours with a voice actor getting the audio recorded (never work with Children!). Our app is very verbal. Kids have to be able to read numbers, but that's part of learning right? Everything else is given by verbal instruction.
  • Show them when they are wrong. I found that in most apps out there if you get the answer wrong your answer vanishes. So there you are having to start again. If like me your memory is really bad, you can't necessarily remember what you typed in. Maybe you mistyped and were actually correct? Our app leaves the last answer on show, greying it out and playing an appropriate sound, so you know it's wrong, but then you can look at it and think about why it is wrong.
  • Target either schools or parents.This is a tricky one. Teachers told us that schools like an app to i) be educational, be a tool to learning, ii) be not too gamified (where it feels more like a game than a learning tool), iii) give the child or the teacher some way to track progress. We hope we have delivered on all those points. But hey parents want those things too don't they? So our app has a very good settings page, which allows it to be set up in any way the parent or teacher wants. We also realised that multiple users may want a different set up, so we added three sets of settings, for three 'lesson plans'. It sounds complicated but when you see it, it's very user friendly!
So this was what went into the design, and we really think we have come up with an app that is different and more useful than most. We don't have a huge marketing budget, we can't afford to give the app away free and rely on future value in our user base, so we have set it at a very reasonable price, and we also offer schools in Apple's educational program 50% off. We think it will become a valuable tool in any classroom and on any home iPad. If we have convinced you, please take a closer look and download it from here

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Trucks and Diggers version 2.0

We have been working hard to add a new game to the Trucks and Diggers app. User feedback suggested that the app needed to be more engaging. We are experimenting with the diggers being more interactive but also thought kids would enjoy a digger related game, and this is a classic! The new matching game is added under a new menu item (Apple only allow a maximum of 5 tabs on the main screen). Testing has shown that the kids can navigate the simple menu. Our young testers just liked finding the random pictures behind the 'cards', and our 3 year olds could play the game as intended.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Worldwide success

Trucks and Diggers is proving to be a bit of a success! Apple send us developers our daily sales reports which have been showing consistent sales, and we had noticed that it seems to sell well all over the world (there are about 40 i-tunes store locations). We recently registered with a great site called and this shows the full history in each place. To our surprise the app is ranked in the top 200 kids games in most stores. Notable successes are 17th in Germany and 7th in Finland. This means Trucks and Diggers is going up against the big boys (Disney, HIT, Lego) and beating them in some places! We have just learnt that the app is currently featured by the Austrian Apple store as 'Games > Kids > What's Hot'. Thank-you everyone.

So why the success? We think it's because the app has no words, so it instantly has global appeal. Excavators are yellow the world over. By watching and learning from our own kids we made the user interface very easy, and kids love that.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Negative Feedback

The Trucks and Diggers app received some negative feedback recently (thanks Kittyblueit), and that really hurt. Admittedly the app isn't going to appeal to everyone, but they said it was a "rip off". Considering that it costs less than a bottle of coke I don't see how something that does what it says in the iTunes description can be a rip off. They also suggested it should be free. We consciously decided that the app shouldn't have advertising in it, after all it's for young kids. If there's no ads then the other business model is to sell it at a reasonable cost. There is a large cost (especially in time) developing such a thing. To expect something for nothing is optimistic! I hope the thousands of other people who have downloaded it do like it. I know our kids do, and they keep coming back to it. It's no Angry Birds, but then it doesn't pertain to be.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Apps for Cars

It dawned on me on a recent long drive that the next big thing will be apps for cars. Some new cars have built in satnav, I personally use my iPhone as a satnav (I have an app for that!). If you have the factory fitted satnav, you are stuck with that. If the car manufacturers were to stick an iPad (or similar device) on the dash you could have whatever satnav you wanted and there would be a million other apps designed around the drivers needs. Microsoft have been talking about the car computer for 10 years, but really they should just stick in the sensors and let the app developers do the rest. I just wanted to get this thought down on wax so that I could say "i told you so" in 2030!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The start of something wonderful

Today we launched our first iPhone app - Trucks and Diggers. There's been quite a few months of late nights producing this followed by rigorous testing by our kids. They like it (even without their Daddy telling them to!) and it was even modified in places where we saw them getting stuck. For a dollar you get a lot of app, and we have more ideas to add to it at a later stage. If you buy it and like it please don't forget to leave positive feedback as it really does help to spread the word.