Week Four: Action Plan & Market Research

This week I took a look through everything I’ve done so far and decided to make a rough timeline to give myself some structure and to keep myself on the right track. This, inevitably, will change as the semester progresses and it becomes more clear with the exact steps I need to take but I feel its the right time to take this step as I had a rough timeline jotted down at the beginning of the semester but it needs updating.

I just used post-it notes and stuck them on an empty wall in my room, which is where I spend most of my time working.

a (very bad quality, sorry!) photo of my timeline.

After looking at gamified language learning apps, I moved onto looking at what apps are available to teach sign language. I didn’t focus in on just British Sign Language so I could have a larger scope and feel of what’s out there.

The apps I came across and reviewed on Tumblr are:

I was quite disheartened to see a real lack in fun and engaging apps available for children. Most apps seem to be just the bare-bones, links to videos and that’s it, really. There’s no sense of education being fun or modern apps. With education increasingly incorporating technology into curriculums in schools, it seems that sign language education has been left behind in this aspect.

American Sign Language apps are appearing to be better than British Sign Language Apps in these areas, so it is this gap in the market I want to address.

The best app out of this bunch was really the ASL Kids app. This one was engaging and interesting to look at. It carried its branding throughout the app in the form of illustrations, used children’s voices for the sound clips and had children signing.

After this, I moved on to looking at gamified learning apps in general. I wanted to see how children learned other skills through gamified apps. I came across the Toca Boca apps. Toca Boca is a studio which creates “digital toys” for children. I saw that their target audience was children ages 3–8. After doing a little research, I came across a Telegraph article which states:

“The age range Toca Boca is focusing on — three to eight years — is interesting. Jeffery has a theory that after the age of nine children react differently to games and take on the mindset we’re familiar with as adults. What are you supposed to do in the game? What are the rules? How do you win? How do you get to the next level? Children of eight and under who interact with these games don’t care about these things. They just play. They make it up as they go along. It’s a completely different way of looking at the world. And it reminds me of the thing many psychologists consider crucial in theories of success and fulfilment: developing a “learning mindset” where you’re immersed in what you’re doing and learning”

This is an interesting insight into why they have chosen that age range. As I am targeting my project to primary school children, the app will partly fall under this range also.

Although, my project won’t be targeted to children as young as three, and children older than eight, so I will need to have some small element of ‘winning’ within it. This could fall back to my idea of having prizes or awards for completing the lessons. No doubt these will appeal to younger children also.

I put together a rough curriculum for the app using this information. I decided to keep it simple, with basic conversational topics that would be easy for children to retain:

  • Fingerspelling (alphabet)
  • Numbers: 1–20
  • Basic Common Phrases: hello/bye, please/thank-you, good morning/afternoon/evening
  • About Me: my name is, my age is etc
  • Animals: common pets e.g. dogs, cat, hamster, zoo animals e.g. giraffe, monkey, lion
  • Weather: seasons, simple weather e.g. sunny, raining, snow
  • School: subjects, things in school e.g. books, desk, pencil, teacher
  • My Family: mum, dad, sister, brother, grandmother, grandfather

Having these lessons split into themes means I can really use illustration to engage the users and add a bit of character and personality to the UI.

Looking for inspiration…

I scoured Pinterest, Tumblr, Behance and Dribbble a lot this week looking for inspiration for mainly illustration styles. I want to start experimenting with styles and different techniques, so I want to have plenty to work with — outside that of what I’m used to.

Character design is something I’ll have to look into for this app, and is an area I don’t have much experience in, at all really. So I spent the majority of the week researching this and seeing what appeals to children in characters.

I’ve found that children respond well to characters made out of objects. E.g. giving sometimes inanimate objects a personality. I’ll be looking into this for my app. It could be useful for teaching children, for example, how to sign ‘cloud’ in BSL, and have cloud character animated to demonstrate the sign. Just a thought!

I added a ton of images to my inspiration tumblr, if you fancy a nosey.