Appracadabra! Making Magical Apps for Kids

Appracadabra_team_photoSomething a bit different on the blog today: I’m happy to introduce the second in my series of interviews with app developers from around the world.

I started on an app world tour in October, visiting Canada to talk to Ink Robin. We’ve now flown all the way across the Atlantic to the Netherlands to talk to Appracadabra, a fantastic small business based in The Hague.

When I was researching apps about starting school back in August, I came across a beautiful, simple school countdown app made by Appracadabra. I quickly found their Count the Animals and Theater apps and have followed their work with interest since. Their commitment to great design and multilingualism has been something which has really impressed me, and I asked Jochem from Appracadabra to tell me more.

I read that Appracadabra began life at the airport, when you realised the apps you wanted for your kids didn’t exist. Can you tell me a little about this great start, who you are, and what you do.

We are a team of four and we work together with many others. We love beautiful things like old picture books and hand drawn craftsmanship. In 2010 we wanted to download some apps for our kids whose native languages are Swiss German and Dutch. Back then, there were not as many kids apps as there are today and they were mostly in English. Because of our design background we decided it would be great to make an app ourselves.

I’m very glad you did! We’ve really enjoyed exploring your apps this year, including Theater which led us into all sorts of other theatre-based activities. Why did you choose to make a play theatre app?

We wanted to create an app in which children can play freely without game elements like rules, a scoring system or levels. Theater (soon to be renamed Puppet-show) is designed to invite children to engage in free play. They can choose their own scene, props and actors and just start playing their own story.

That was definitely our experience – my children love making up stories and this app really gave them another outlet for that.

You mentioned the importance of apps being available not just in English. Do you think enough app developers are considering multilingualism?

This depends on your target market, if you want to publish a kids’ app just for the UK market (or any other English-speaking market) then why should you bother about multilingualism? It is of course a shame that there is some really good content out there that is only available in English, but this is the same for any other medium.

Another thing is written text versus spoken text. We publish apps for young children that cannot read yet. So we strive to create user interfaces that are very intuitive, even for the youngest children. We think still many developers do not take this intuitive user interface very seriously. We still see a lot of written text in user interfaces in apps targeted at young children.

Publishing apps in multiple languages has been one of our goals from the start being a Swiss – Dutch company operating in a mostly English-speaking market. At this moment we translate and record as many as 22 languages.

We have a few apps on our iPad from developers based in the Netherlands, such as Bo the Giraffe (by Heppi) and Miffy (by Sanoma). Is there a strong kids app industry there? Apart from Appracadabra (of course!) who should we be keeping an eye out for?

There is indeed a handful of developers in the Netherlands. Apart from the ones you mention, you can check out OCG Studios, RumdeeDum, Juf Jannie, Kennisnet, Tizio and Gottmer.

Your new app Learn your Colours has been released recently, can you introduce it for us?

Learn your Colours is an app consisting of 23 colour flash cards and pictures. Children can look around the house for matching colours and add their own photos to the app. We believe that children learn by playing, and with this app young children learn all kinds of colours.

What can we expect from Appracadabra in 2013?

We are working on improving our current apps and several new apps. We can share some details about one of them. A while ago we saw a video with Jamie Oliver revealing that young children don’t know their vegetables. In a classroom children were shown a tomato and a potato and they just couldn’t guess what these objects were. This year we will come out with an app in which children can learn all about fruit and vegetables, by playing with them. We have been playing with the beta version for quite a while now, and it’s a great app for adults too.

Thanks Jochem for taking the time to answer my questions! Dank u wel!

You can find out more about Appracadabra at