Less Is More

Ever since Apple introduced APP Store in 2008, according to Wikipedia, as of June 2015 App Store had 1.4 million apps and currently has more than 80,000 apps in the education category. Educators and parents have undoubtedly been offered with abundance of choices when picking the suitable EdTech products for their children. The key to identify a good EdTech product, however, remains as a mystery.

In our user behaviour report released earlier this month (link), contrary to our expectation, it was surprising to discover that Proof of Effectiveness is not as highly sought as User Engagement by parents of children aged 4–11 and not as highly sought as Safety Controls by parents of children aged 12–18. To explain this further, parents seems be not too bothered about the educational side of the EdTech product, rather they see the adoption of EdTech products by their children is unavoidable in current climate and hence are more concerned about their children’ user experiences and safety issues.

This is clearly not what a true EdTech product wants to achieve. With no meaningful learning for the user, EdTech products are simply blending into Games category in general. This is more alarming for EdTech startups and entrepreneurs because it is often the parents who make the purchase decision for EdTech products rather than the user(children) themselves. This not yet recognised usefulness of such products meaning entrepreneurs are effectively pretending solving the education problem while in fact many clients actually do not care about how well your solution to the problem is.

In order to close this expectation gap clearly requires the improvement of public’s perception about EdTech vertical, but more importantly when it comes down to individual EdTech App, how can startups and entrepreneurs send across the message that their product has a serious learning element to it.

Let’s imagine ourselves being entrepreneurs who want to develop an EdTech APP targeting 4–11 years old. We start by listing out key elements that our products would need. We think we would need following

· Colourful visual. This is really important because child will be immediately attracted by the visual effect, hence want to touch the APP.

· Playful animation. Children are naturally into cartoons, hence built in good animation helps the engagement and keep them happy.

· Cool sounds. Animation with no sound is no good, children want to hear dog bark, cat meow and lion roar.

· Gamification. We are an EdTech, we are different from conventional learning, hence gamification is essential.

· Peer collaboration.

· Parents participation.

Wait a minute, oh, we forgot to build in the learning element! Let’s just put together some educational content and scatter them in the APP where fit. Boom! Our EdTech APP is accomplished.

Unfortunately, this is not unusual. The most important element, learning, is often considered the last and with so many other features built in, learning element is often lost in translation. If this is indeed the normal practice of an EdTech entrepreneur, who can blame the parents no taking EdTech product seriously for education.

My suggestion to this problem is simple — do the subtraction rather addition.

Place educational function in the centre stage. Any other features should be built on it to enhance rather than blurring the focus. Leave out all the onerous and obscure elements. This may involve painful exercise of removing seemingly useful stuff, for instance, good animation and cool sounds. In this way, when presented upon parents, they can instantly get the message that this APP is trying to teach rather than entertain, hence make the purchase decision based on true product value recognition.

In a world where choices abundance is the norm, it is vital to remember the ultimate goal and not carried away by red herrings. As Leonardo da Vinci put it, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Less is more.

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