Emil Ovemar, the co-founder and executive producer of popular digital toy company Toca Boca, knows how to capture a child’s imagination.
What are the key factors when creating apps for kids?
When designing for adults, you can become a bit lazy because you can set up text tutorials to explain how an app works. But with kids, you need to design in a way that’s intuitive. They should be able to start tapping and poking until what we’ve created reveals itself. You have to add surprises. And you need to test your ideas with kids.
How do you monitor their feedback?
With some kids, you have to watch their behaviour and reactions; to look into their eyes to see engagement or frustration. But others can be really frank. That honesty can sometimes be brutal but we really do appreciate it.
What are the biggest changes in children’s play?
For kids, a device is just another toy – all objects in the world can be played with. So they treat technology without respect, in a positive way. They aren’t afraid of pressing the wrong button or deleting something. In the future, there will be a big shift in nostalgia. Childhood memories will mostly be digital. Much of what children consume and play with won’t exist in 20 years so they’ll have fewer artefacts in their lives.
How much time should kids should spend on-screen?
I don’t think one recommendation is optimal for all families. There needs to be balance but it’s not whether you’re using a screen, it’s what you do with it.
What’s the secret to engaging a young audience?
It’s not about being hi-fi or lo-fi because a stick or rock can just as easily do it. It’s about the play value, which is why you have to test with kids and create from their perspective. We don’t design for boys or girls; everything can be for both. A really good toy works for generations so we create for the timeless emotional needs of kids instead of basing our ideas on trends.
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