Book apps and the Powerpoint trap

Recently, I’ve downloaded a few book apps for my children which have made me stop and wonder –

Has no-one learned anything from death by Powerpoint?

You know what I mean. You’ve sat through the presentations. Too much text on each slide, too many slides, and too many pointless animations crammed in just because they look pretty. On the other hand, the best presentations have simply a few well-chosen words, clear graphics, and animations which move the presentation along.

In book apps, the primary risk factor for falling into the Powerpoint trap seems to be trying to translate a traditional book to an app without much adaptation to the new medium. Huge chunks of text with minimal interaction make me ask myself why I bought the app when the book would have been much a more appropriate format. It must be pretty hard to adapt a story which was written before apps were even thought of, which is why it is so important to choose a book which can work well on the iPad – or to start from scratch. Although even then, some original story apps fall into the Powerpoint trap too.

The second risk factor is in creating animations and interactions which interrupt the story and distract your child from it, rather than advancing the plot. Like those Powerpoint animations which made text zoom around the slide, giving you a major headache. It’s particularly frustrating when these break up the rhythm of the story or even take you away from it. I’m not a fan of separate interaction pages in the middle of a story, for example (colouring pages and mini-games spring to mind). Keep any extras for the end. I like interactions which draw the audience in and involve them in discovering the next piece of the story. See for example The Gift by Persian Cat Press, where you can dig away the hillside to find the Oomerels’ home, or The Three Little Pigs, by Nosy Crow, where you huff and puff and blow the houses down. Or perhaps Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App by Mo Willems (Disney Book Apps) – where not only does the child help to advance the story, they co-author it. And the illustrations are super-simple and super-engaging too.

App developers, don’t fall into the Powerpoint trap please! We love –

  • Not too much text on each page
  • Interactions which move the story along
  • Stories which really push the boundaries of using the iPad as a new medium

With thanks from your grateful – and hopefully wide awake – audience.

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