Mastering the Art of Stickiness When Creating Apps for Kids

By March 17, 2016Blog

While building apps developers dream of creating games that hook users. Many practices are being used to keep audience not only happy, but also hungry for more. The best apps in the games segment enjoy high engagement and relatively low drop rates. This never happens by chance or by luck.

But when it comes to kids apps, many developers don’t fully understand stickiness methods, assuming what works for grown-ups must work for children, or simply don’t give this fundamental difference of audience the proper attention. Kids mobile behavior is, at times, very similar to adults, but often methods used for the mature audience cannot and should not be practiced on kids, whether for ethical or preferential reason. Which brings us to our core question – what makes an app so very worthy for kids to return to time and again? Good thing you asked!

Kids need to feel like they are learning something

For users to return to a game, they need to feel like they are gaining something. Games are a great way for kids to develop math and reading skills, and apps related to education tend to be the most downloaded as well. Adding features such as quizzes helps kids measure their success, and create an interactive playing environment. In Norm of the North Digit Dodge kids are rewarded with ready-launch snowballs after answering arithmetic questions, mixing the fun of play with practical learning.

Keeping content fresh is essential

Surprisingly enough, kids are very much like grown-ups. When kids know that new content is added on a regular basis, the retention is higher, as they are more willing to return to the game to find the new features, and it extends their session time. A great way to do this is by adding a content widget that features new apps and videos for user. The KIDOZ SDK provides kid-friendly content recommendation and can be integrated to apps in minutes – yes, we are biased, but we know the hundreds of developers we work with agree.

They are looking for real-world experience

Kids want to better understand the world around them. Games that help kids explore occupations are popular with kids, because they allow them to try on different personas and learn about real-life topics. Games such as Jungle Animal Hair Salon allow kids to take on roles that are traditionally for adults, and keep them playing because they love games that do not feel like they are made for kids.

Allow kids to build their own world

Kids are more likely to engage with games if they can express themselves. This can be incorporated into games by allowing kids to choose a character, or even build an entire ecosystem. Minecraft is extremely popular with kids of all ages because it allows them to build anything they imagine, and as a result users have ownership over their experience.

Create a points or budgeting system

Of course, creating a points system is motivating for users of all ages – seeing the bounty in your piggy bank increasing is a reason to keep playing. For kids, learning to budget is also exciting and challenging. In Toca Boca Store kids manage their inventory and count money as they create their virtual store. This commitment is the highest level of stickiness, users are basically stuck in bubble gum because they are excited to see how their store succeeds and can measure their growth.

Kids prefer mini games, as opposed to levels with progressive difficulty

Children love to feel challenged, but need to know they are advancing or they will lose interest with the game. Once they feel stuck they will leave the app, and are not likely to return. A great way to keep kids engaged is to incorporate mini games with the same difficulty level. This will motivate kids to continue playing. Mini games are also a way to add variety, so users can get excited about discovering new content within the same app.

Include feedback cues to guide users

Great user experience is achieved when the goal of the game is clear. Through placing sounds and other cues at the right places kids know they are progressing within the game and playing correctly. Feedback mechanisms show users what they are working towards, adding timers, music, prizes, and countdown bars can nudge kids in the right direction and push them to keep playing. The feedback is also important to them, as they don’t mind making mistakes as long as they can correct them and with that learn from their previous mistakes.

Bottom line

Sometimes, in our communications with industry members, we hear about the difficulties of monetizing in the kids’ space. Now, this is an interesting issue to investigate (and we will, in an upcoming blog post!) but developers give themselves too much slack by making statements like this. Monetazation includes many factors: a good business model, proper segmentation, and just the right tools to boost revenue, but these points are irrelevant if kids are not excited about re-engaging with your app.
Alongside with a well designed interface and experience, factoring in kids needs can make the difference between a forgotten app that is left aside, just another icon on the mobile screen, and the go-to app kids love to access whenever a mobile device is in their hands.