Raul Gutierrez, the entrepreneur and iPhone app developer behind Brooklyn-based childrens app startup Tinybop, has a lot to say about the problems with mobile app options available to children. And while the surprise success of the startup’s purposefully “weird” apps for kids come as no surprise to parents of the Tinybop target audience, New York iPhone app developers in other industries are left scratching their heads.
The apps themselves are heavily illustrative and detail-focussed, almost like childrens books of the old days like “Where the Wild Things Are.” Runaway hits from the mobile app development company like Human Body, Everything Machine and others forego the tropes of children-focussed tech by honing in on experience above all else; no instructions, no pandering. Just pure visual education based on inquiry-based teaching models, following the principle of “guiding” educational exploration rather than “directing” it. For example, in apps designed to explore how the human body functions, the app employs cause-and-effect gaming rather than labeling and video.
Gutierrez plans to expand the company’s offerings to include tangible goods as well as apps, including printed sheets, toys, and perhaps even print books. As business models go, turning a mobile app development company into a lifestyle brand is sure to turn heads. But then, turning heads is good in a crowded industry.
Says Gutierrez in an interview with Wired, “I think kids are very sophisticated in the way they look at the world. I think we underestimate what kids can take in.” With that in mind, it makes sense that while most apps for kids feel like grown-up apps dumbed down, Tinybop apps feel more like kids books enhanced.
The app development process at Tinybop is no less “bizarre” than the final products, with UX/UI design coming straight from a team of illustrators — for apps made to update the childrens book experience, it’s no surprise that the interaction design would draw inspiration from artists rather than technology. But ultimately, it’s not the fact that they’re illustrators that really matters; what Tinybop has to teach app developers in other industries is that details are key to building loyal users.
Even for six-year-olds, it’s the tiny, humanized details that make a brand feel like a friend.Tags: baby app, childrens app, education app, education startup, illustration, kid app, kids app, raul gutierrez, startup, tinybop, ui design, ux design, wired