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Muppets launch app store guide for little fingers

Big Bird's tips: Less interactivity is more

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App stores from Apple, Google and Microsoft are choked with hundreds of thousands of apps, with the most popular being free games.

The App Store debate is shaped by techies and entrepreneurial types. As such, it mostly breaks down into choice of technology - HTML5 versus native – and, for the VC types, finance - specifically how to cash in and then cash out. As far as the latter is concerned, you won't and can’t unless you’re one of the big studios.

So, won’t somebody think of the kids in the middle of all this?

Somebody has: Muppet shop Sesame Street, which has published a guide to building apps and ereader software that target young children.

Sesame Workshop, the non-profit group behind the Sesame Street TV programme fronted by Big Bird, has published a guide to help those designing and coding apps for iPhones, iPads, Androids and other mobe devices with touch screens.

Sesame Street started broadcasting in 1969 and, especially in the US, has carved out a strong reputation in TV-based learning.

The group has recognised that touch is revolutionising education and learning as it means kids don’t need to initially learn how to juggle mouse and keyboard. However, there exists a void on best practices when it comes to building apps for use on tablets and smart devices for eager little fingers and short attention spans.

The group said here:

There are very few resources that are publicly available to help guide developers who make educational apps for young children. Much like when Sesame Street was created in the 1960s and little was known at the time about how to best develop educational television, now too there seems to be little standardization for ensuring the best conditions under which children can learn from assets on these new touch screen devices.

While understanding learning theories and how children process information through older media can lend some support in these endeavors, we quickly realized that these new technologies were raising additional questions about usability and navigation that could best be answered by experimentation.

Sesame Workshop’s guide is based on 60 studies on how children interact with tabs. Meanwhile, the organisation has used the info to build its own apps for iOS and Kinect TV.

The highlights of Big Bird's touch tips:

  • Don’t put hotspots in the lower right and left hand corners of a screen because that’s where kids place their wrists [which may cause them to] accidentally exit the app.
  • Use different colours and designs on the buttons and controls meant for parents from those on the buttons and controls that target children.
  • Try to mitigate the bells and whistles of interactivity as distractions interrupt learning and story flow.

You can read the guide here (PDF). ®

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