It’s not always easy to admit it but we have painted ourselves into a corner. Actually, two corners to be more exact. Let me explain.
When we launched Happi Papi almost a year ago we made two pledges:
Our games were always going to be easy enough to understand for children to be able to start playing on their own right away.
Our games were going to be a fun and safe place for kids to play. We were never going to have any ads, in app purchases or other links in our games.
These are great pledges and we still believe in them 100%. However, they have also made our lives more difficult. Consider the following cases:
Along the way, since we released our first game in May last year, we have gotten many great suggestions from our customers (or fans as all cool app developers call the people buying their products nowadays). Trying to incorporate some of these ideas has made our games better but also a little bit more complex in certain ways. For example, we added a few settings that are great in a school setting to Happi Spells. We placed these settings in the iOS device’s general Settings app. But with our simple, kid-friendly main menu, how and where do we tell grownups that these settings exist?
Again, let me take you back to when we released our first app. At that point nobody had ever heard of Happi Papi or our apps. Not having a channel to reach potential customers wasn’t something we dwelled upon. It was just a fact for a brand new start-up. Now that we have an install base of tens of thousands of customers, not having a way to tell them about a newly released app seems like a shame. But how can we do that when we have made a promise not to include ads and links in our apps?
Parents to the Rescue
Well, the answer to both cases above turned out to be what we have chosen to call a “For Parents” section. It is a small folded lower right hand corner of our apps’ main menu where it say “For Parents”. Clicking here will open up an on screen information box. If the device is Internet connected at the time, the app will check for any updates to this For Parents section since its last launch. If no Internet connection is detected, it will simply launch the last cached copy of the information box.
This information box has three sections and a very clever back-end push mechanism. The main section of the box always holds useful parent information about the app. Stuff that kids don’t care about but parents might. The other two sections hold information that we believe to be relevant to the customer. This can, for example, be an icon and description of a newly launched app or a small note about a Facebook contest we’re holding at the moment.
The app information in the main section is just that – information. But the “information” in the other two sections (right and bottom) borders on advertising. In order to keep our pledge of no ads or links in our games we have chosen not to make any of this info clickable. From a marketing perspective it would be very powerful to put a newly launched app just a click away from somebody that has already bought one of your other apps. But from a “safe for kids” perspective it would be a disaster. Thus we will “just” tell people that there is a contest going on at our Facebook page or a new app available on the App Store that they might like. They will have to actively go there themselves by opening a browser or the App Store. We feel this was fair and very important trade-off.
Proud of Our Back-end…
Now, what about that very clever back-end I was talking about earlier? Well, as you already know from reading our other blog posts (you do read them, right…;-) we have apps for most of the major languages and device platforms out there. That means we cannot simply push the same info to all apps and devices and in the same language. If we did, that would, for example, have meant that Happi Spells for Kindle Fire would get information on how to find the settings in the iPhone settings app or Happi lee (the Spanish version of Happi Reads) getting the English app name in its information section.
To solve this little dilemma we have created a back end system that can push a lot of different information screens to our various apps. The front end “For Parents” section in our apps is, in turn, version and language aware meaning it will tell our back end system what app it is and what language it “speaks”. The back end will then serve up the appropriate information in the correct language. Very neat indeed! Or at least so we hope… This blog post will actually be published before the “For Parents” system goes live.
Keep your fingers crossed…:-)