March 21, 2012

By Graydon Gordian

The Evolution of a Sesame Street iPad App

Thorough research provides the foundation of everything Sesame Workshop produces. Whether it’s a book, a game or an episode of our flagship program Sesame Street, our early childhood education experts spend hours working with parents and young children to ensure that all of our educational material, no matter what medium it comes in, is both fun and effective. That policy hasn’t changed as new technologies have allowed us to bring our educational efforts to new venues, such as applications for tablets and smart phones. In fact, the simple nature of updating apps has allowed us to continue scrutinizing the effectiveness of our educational material even after it’s been published.

Take the recently updated version of our first book app for iPad, The Monster at the End of This Book, based on the classic book of the same name. Although the app, made in collaboration with Callaway Digital Arts, was tested before release to ensure that it was educational, navigable and entertaining, we received feedback suggesting some parents and children were not fully utilizing the app’s user interface. Even little hiccups can hamper the effectiveness of an app’s educational aims, so our research team went back and took another look at it. They found there were ways to make the app even more user-friendly.

For instance, the app already included tips for parents — ways they could work with their kids to help the app’s lessons really sink in. But research and analytics suggested that parents were not clicking on the parent tips, which were located on each separate page. A parent has to decide whether or not to utilize the advice we give, but it was important that they at least knew it was there. So instead of putting parent tips on pages where reading them could interrupt the story, they are now accessed from the splash screen users encounter when first opening the app. They’re also more visible to parents.

In the first version (left), parent tips were seen on each individual page. In the updated version they can be seen on the opening screen.

This is just one example of several tweaks that were made to The Monster at the End of This Book: The introductory video was edited so it could be skipped, in case it had been previously watched; the connection to the iTunes app purchasing page was moved behind a locking feature so that it was more difficult for young children to accidentally access it; certain icons now only need to be clicked once in order to activate them, instead of twice. As these updates were being made, they were also included in the app Another Monster at the End of This Book, the sequel to the first iPad book app.

Updating apps to ensure they’re easily navigable and highly educational is just another example of the many ways Sesame Workshop places our educational goals and rigorous commitment to research at the forefront of everything we do.

To download The Monster at the End of This Book, click here.

See Also: