Co-founded small mobile app company that makes unique, literate story apps for children
•Four mobile apps, cross platform. Find us on Google Play and the Apple Children’s store.
•Ongoing publishing initiative, 3 apps per year
•Publishing platform based on Cordova, custom CMS
Who did what
Co-founder Peter Velikonja is a programmer with a PHD in Music. I am a UX/Product Designer with an Illustration MFA and a background in journalism. Our skills are complimentary yet overlap, resulting in a really great collaboration.
The project came out of my appetite for new publishing platforms and long experience in print publishing. I recruited Peter in 2013 after mostly completing one app. Early on I identified the need to publish via HTML/CSS, and identified Phonegap (now Cordova) as an avenue to publish cross platform with a minimum of development costs.
How we did it
1. A business plan that minimized development costs in a “Wild West” market environment
In 2012 children’s books publishers were rushing into the app market. Development costs were exorbitant. The low price point for apps meant that development costs needed to stay low. In addition, app stores were uncurated and confusing, making it hard to sell product. (They still are).
We chose to use HTML to deliver our stories, keeping the apps simply animated and modestly interactive, and focusing instead on sophisticated and unusual content.
2. A shared passion for literacy in text and images
We don’t talk down to kids. We avoid canned voices and bowdlerized text, and use whimsical but sophisticated imagery.
3. Our process
We jointly edit text, and match the narrator’s voices to the content. Our version of Mr. Punch was narrated by a puppeteer, while Bluebeard was narrated by a french-speaking Haitian who was familiar with the story from her childhood. I do most of the image creation, which involves a blend of photographs and watercolor images, while Peter curates the music. The assets reside in a shared server.
A shared Google spreadsheet allows us to list all the assets and create actions calls. Key animation actions are simple but effective: opacity, translation, duration, rotation.
Compilation and HTML generation
Peter wrote scripts that copy materials listed in the spreadsheet and put them all in one bundle. C was used to generate the HTML and compiling occurs 4 x an hour.
What we released in app stores
One of many stories about this trickster god from Greek mythology. Kirkus Review Award for “Best Apps & E-Books of 2013 Based On Classics”
A Russian folk tale with many variants, told with magical realism
French folk tale written by Charles Perrault in 1695
An episode from the classic English puppet theater canon; our version was written in 1870.
Our inclusion of the hanging scene caused Apple to age rate us age 18+, as compared to the National Rifle Association’s “Shooting Illustrated”, rated age 12+. We appealed and are now age 4+.