Apple has just released the latest sequel of the Heidi books series by JustKidsApps Developer, Katrin Draemann Barothy to the App Store. It is called Heidi Part II and is available for the iPad or iPhone. In this second of three sequels, Heidi is taken to Frankfurt by her aunt Dete, to be the companion of the wheel chair bound Klara, who’s mother has died some time ago. There, everything starts to get topsy-turvy after Heidi’s arrival….
We will be publishing our review of this app very shortly but we also wanted to find out more behind the scenes of this bilingual interactive picture book, read our insightful interview below…
1 Please explain how your app was originally thought of and what were your thoughts behind the marketplace, specifically?
I bought my first iPad in May 2010 and it was soon populated by numerous book apps for children, such as those from Dr. Seuss and others. We lived in Singapore from 2006 – 2009, that’s why our 7 year old daughter grew up more or less bilingual (German and English). Therefore, she was able to enjoy those English books although she is Swiss.
In the beginning, there were not many German book apps for children and when I started ‘complaining’ about this, my husband just said: ‘make them yourself then’. When in October 2010 my six month freelancer-contract as an SAP-consultant in the IT Department of a major swiss company was completed, I decided to go for it and develop bilingual book apps in German and English.
I chose Heidi because this is THE book for my home market Switzerland and because it is well know all over the world, which might give it also some chance in other countries. I grew up with the Heidi books, TV series, movies; and when we were in Singapore and my daughter watched the old Swiss TV series on DVD, with the Swiss mountains prominently in the background, it made me cry with homesickness and I felt like Heidi myself. So I have a real personal attachment to this story.
2 Explain the design, how you came up with the colors and themes.
I wanted the illustrations for the Heidi book to be detailed, realistic, and just very very nice. I did not want any whimsical, simplified illustrations or comic style. So, my first task was to find an illustrator who could do that and fit into my budget. I had samples made by various illustrators and finally found one through an American children books illustrator agent. I specified what had to be on each illustration, so that it fits with the text/narration and the interactive audio elements, but apart from that, I let the illustrator work autonomously.
The Illustrator did terrific research work on how people were dressed in those days (1890), and only occasionally I had to have her change some things that definitely did not look Swiss (e.g. the breed of dog she used on the very first page of Heidi Part I). As for the audios, I wanted them to be outstanding and decided to invest some money here also and do it with a professional sound recording studio and professional speakers/actors. There are so many book apps with audio where the audios were done by the developers themselves instead of by actors. This means the same voice does all the parts for the interactive elements, and this is so disappointing.
I wanted the app to be a mixture between a book and a fantastic audio book, with great voices, so that it is real fun for the kids to listen to it. My favorite is Miss Rottenmeier, the fierce hysterical housekeeper of the Sesemann family in Frankfurt. She gives Part II the final touch….
3 Who do you see as the main target market for this app in terms of age, genre and expenditure?
The target are children aged 4-8, but of course this may vary. I kept the narrators text in the English version quite simple so that the App is also suited for children who learn English as a second language. As well as for children who are struggling with learning to read. The interactive elements of course also attract younger children, and the ‘read to me’ option allows younger children to enjoy the book by themselves.
4 How long did it take from the original planning to the production process of this app?
I started planning and specifying in October 2010 and had the first sketches for Heidi Part I in my inbox two months later. The audios were done at a sound recording studio in Zürich in January/February, and the actual programming followed in February/March, which was done with the help of a friend of mine.
The App was in the Store End of March. So, in all it took 6 months from the first idea to being available in the store. Heidi Part II and III only depend on the illustrations, as the code is more or less the same (it takes me a few hours to adjust it once the illustrations are ready) and the audios were done for all three sequels together.
5 How do you predict sales to be, is there a good solid market for this style of app?
I have no idea how sales will be going, to be frank. Switzerland is lagging behind other countries in regards to all things electronic and people are generally not aware that this kind of book app even exists.
I did not do any promotion in Switzerland for Part I, but will do now that part II is in the store. I’ll try to get mentioned in Swiss Newspapers and Magazines. As for international sales, it is hard to predict what sales will be, as there are so many book apps on the market and competition is huge. It would be great if one day the three Heidi Apps would stop being a very expensive hobby and start being an income for me.
6 What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome regarding this app development?
The hardest obstacle is getting known. There are so many book apps in the store, if you’re not featured from the very first day or in the top 10 of a category, how are people going to find your app? It would be great if there was a category just for kids apps in the App Store, so that it would be easier for parents to find suitable apps for their kids among all those other apps.
7 Would you consider developing apps for third parties?
Yes, I definitely would consider developing book apps for Swiss publishing companies or independent children’s book authors who would like to bring their books to the iPad. I like doing it very much, it allows me to work at home and have enough time for my seven year old daughter.
8 What have you learnt from the App Store?
You cannot simply release an App and wait and see, that does not work. You have to invest a LOT of time (and also some money) in market research, promoting, advertising to be noticed on the international market. I think in the long run I will definitely be spending more time with promoting the app than with developing the app.
9 Have Apple supported you well with your App development?
So far there has been no need for me to contact Apple for support, so I can’t tell. All the problems I’ve faced so far have been solved with already existing answers in blogs and forums, which are very helpful.
10 What next, are you developing another app, would you go for the same genre again, if not which?
I have already drafted some specifications for book apps. These are Grimm fairy tales which are well known in the German speaking community but not so well in the English community (those are already in the App Store umpteen times…) and I would very much like to develop them.
If sales do not increase up for Heidi, I will not start producing additional books. Producing high quality apps with really nice illustrations and terrific audios is very expensive, and I will only invest more money if there is a chance of break even in the long term. For the moment, I’m busy doing promotion and with continually improving the App. The next version will bring a pause/play button so that the narrator can be stopped if children are impatient to hear the interactive elements first.
11 What do you think about TheAppWhisperer.com? Have we helped you? Would you recommend us? Have we been supportive?
This is my first time working with The AppWhisperer, but so far you have been very supportive! It was fun doing this interview with you, Joanne!