Book to App – How hard can it be?

Greg Villalobos, Creative Director at Bold Creative, on the creative process:

Our first time… OK we’ll come clean with you – it was our first App! We have always been very engaged with digital media but we’d never even considered making an App until we were approached by Harper Collins. In an ‘Is there an App for that?’ culture we were all aware of the growth in the market and were excited to embrace a new challenge as innovatively as possible. Did it matter that we’d never made an App before? Of course it didn’t.

What’s involved We can actually learn a great deal from Robert Nay, an inspiring young boy who created his own hit app from the comfort of his own bedroom. He’d never created an App before either and he only a had a library book for reference! When his App released in December 2010 it started to exceed the number of daily downloads of popular App angry birds developed by 17 professionals in Finland. This just shows us it’s not all about the grasp on all the know-hows of the technology, it’s about the process and the approach to creating a product that will stand the test of time.

Understanding the story Robert’s Bubble Ball App worked because he understood the physics behind it that he’d learnt at school. We loved the story of The Heart and the Bottle but did we understand it enough to retell it to others?  In early development everyone on the team shared what the story meant to them. Like any great story we each interpreted it in different ways as it resonated with our own unique experiences. We made a concious effort not to force our own interpretation onto the App so we realised how important it was going to be to work closely with Oliver Jeffers. From storyboarding to testing Jeffers helped us remain loyal to the original intentions of the story.

Understanding the users: When a teenage boy develops an App for other teenagers you’re going to get a great outcome. He is constantly designing for the end user even without knowing it! So what happens when a studio of 20 and 30 somethings are designing for a teenage audience?

We approached the App no differently to how we’d approach any other project – have young people involved in the decisions we make. See something say something and Dillon’s story featured young people’s experiences directly in the final product. This wasn’t an option for this particular App so we looked for new ways for young people’s experiences to feed into the App. The outcome was taking the iPad into the classroom to study how different age groups interact with the iPad.

How do young people interact with the medium? What are the most engaging elements? What aspects of interaction were instinctive? Were all questions we were keen to explore.

How can it be used?After this study we started to look at technology for young people the same way many educationalists are doing – there are proven positive effects on individual achievement. When you introduce a piece of technology to a young person you get unexplainable levels of inquisitiveness. Children want to be kept busy interacting. Luckily for parents ‘learning through doing’ is one of the most effective ways to learn.

As much as we saw Apps being used to improve literacy and reading skills using the iPad, we found if used correctly by parents and teachers it can be a powerful exploratory tool. Themes of bereavement, love, loss and youthfulness can be explored with children stimulating their imagination whilst also equipping them with a new vocabulary. This way we take a step towards approaching topics with children that sometimes adults are hesitant to.

Always looking to improve – Countless times the iPad circulated around the studio after even small changes that effected the way the story unfolds. Keeping the channel of communication open between publisher, author, illustrator, developers & users was pivotal to constantly push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Since release in December 2010 the Facebook page is just one forum we use to get crucial feedback on the App to improve The Heart & The Bottle and to make each future releases one step ahead of the rest.

New Releases

If you are a fan of The Heart & The Bottle don’t miss out on Paddington Bear.

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