We’re happy to get our blog going again this week! Here’s a special Mother’s Day post from guest bloggers Snappyant. Happy Mother’s Day!
Snappyant is a new company creating children’s interactive books for touchscreen tablet technologies. It was founded by Ana Vivas and Niki Bern. We’ve just released our first iPad app for Mother’s Day, My Mum’s the Best, (My Mom’s the Best in the USA) an interactive animated adaptation of a best-selling Australian picture book by Bruce Whatley (Diary of a Wombat) and Rosie Smith.
Ana and Niki started Snappyant two years ago. Ana has worked in children’s book publishing for ten years. Excited by the potential for picture books to be part of the burgeoning digital media, she decided to start her own company. However, Ana needed help on the digital side.
Niki is a visual effects artist who has worked mainly in film. She has been a compositor for more than 15 years, working in LA, London, Wellington, Vancouver and Sydney, on major blockbusters including Matrix Reloaded, King Kong, Tron, 2012, Captain America, The Avengers and many more. But the visual effects industry is transient with very long hours, and Niki was ready to move home to Sydney to settle down and change careers.
Ana and Niki have been friends since primary school, so Ana approached Niki about starting up Snappyant in 2010, just before the release of the first iPad. Niki investigated the field and realised that tablet technologies were a great way to use her and Ana’s skills together.
We realised we needed a specialist in sound, so Niki approached an old friend from film school who works as a sound designer in LA. Katy Wood has worked with top directors such as Peter Jackson and Clint Eastwood. She and her musician friends in LA created the soundtrack for My Mum’s the Best.
Demibooks came into our lives early in 2011 when we were looking for developing help to put our apps together. We were very excited about the idea of using developed software to put our apps together ourselves. We joined the beta testing group and used the first Composer release to prototype our apps.
Having the ability to explore and test out ideas ourselves through composer allowed us to fine-tune navigation and design ideas for various app ideas. For us it was revolutionary and exactly what we needed to pursue our business.
We approached Scholastic Australia, illustrator Bruce and author Rosie about creating My Mum’s the Best as an iPad app. Using Composer we whipped up a prototype of the app to demonstrate our ideas and concept of the app to present to them. They were really excited about our ideas and very keen to for us to create the app. Without composer to demonstrate this to the publisher, author and illustrator I don’t think we would have succeeded in convincing them particularly as we didn’t have a previous app in the stores.
Getting the animations and the sound done took us about four months. Putting it together in Composer was much faster. It’s incredibly easy to use and easy to change things once everything is set up. We were however pushing the boundaries of the iPad with our large png animations. Daniel Hotop from Demibooks, with extreme patience and skill, worked with us to fine tune our app to make it work better with the iPad’s limitations. We are much indebted to the Demibooks team for the end result of our first app My Mum’s the Best and My Mom’s the Best.
My Mum’s the Best App can be found here:
Lessons we learnt – 3 tips to help create your app!
1. When designing your app make sure you design it to the iPad’s memory capacities.
Large png animation files will slow your app down massively and synching sounds will become very difficult. Keep within 512×512 (preferably smaller) when creating png animations. Where possible use Composer to move animations to the x and y of screen. Read Dan’s memory management guide before doing anything!
2. Test Test Test
Composer is fantastic because it allows you to do mock ups and preview your app to anyone without having to create a build. Do lots of mock ups of your app and show your friends but particularly get as many of your target audience to play with the app. Adults used our app very differently to our target audience (kids 2+). We noticed that kids were not frightened to touch the screen and they loved repetition. From our observations, we made it hard to turn the page if you hadn’t played the animations. This enabled the kids to concentrate on the animations and text and not the page turn icons. We also made it easy for kids to retouch the animations to play them again and again. One 3 year old loved the frog page so much he would get up and dance. When the animation finished he’d run back to the app and touch it again and again and again.
Think about this before you do anything!
We chose to adapt a best-selling Australian picture book as our first book to release because we could use its popularity to sell our app. We also chose one that was attached to a holiday of sorts – Mother’s Day. Both Ana and I are mums-to-be so we were able to use that to get a couple of articles written in our local paper . We also got mentioned in Publishers Weekly!
We were very lucky but I think a lot of our sales so far have come through our connections on Facebook and Demibooks. Using Facebook we launched our app to all our friends. Our friends then reposted our app store links to all their friends and so on. Being attached to Demibooks has also really helped as they have been able to do the same. However, Demibook’s audience is much more targeted than our friends’. Their posts on their web site and tweets reach an audience we don’t have yet.
Social Media has probably been the best way we have been able to market My Mum’s the Best. As a result of our Facebook and Demibook’s efforts we got into the top 10 paid apps in the book section in the Australian App store.
Here is a really good article about marketing apps:
Stay tuned for our next Demibooks app coming out for Australian Father’s Day I Love My Dad by Anna Walker!