Apps have been developed for a wide range of books, ranging from early baby books to picture books for older readers to nonfiction books for young and old. With each, the most important aspect to consider is the audience. In all the cases where I am considering an app, I want to think about the reader or learner it was designed for.
The first criteria I think about as I open up an app is what's the user's experience with navigation? How easy is it to go from section to section? How do users discover how they find their way around the app? “Transparency, or ease of use, is clearly one of the key components to making technology successful within an educational setting” (Baule, 2007) and this clearly applies to apps as well.
Journey Into the Deep has a fascinating selection of symbols that guide users to digging deeper into the content of a chapter, taking you back to the table of contents, or revealing content within pictures. At the bottom of this app is a sliding scale that indicates where in the book you are at any moment. This sophisticated navigation structure allows users to explore different parts of this complex book in a way that makes sense to them, and always makes it easy to return to the table of contents.
Many picture book apps will remember where readers left off reading, so when you open them they will ask you, "Do you want to resume where you left off, or start from the beginning?" Many picture book apps have a table of contents with a thumbnail picture of each page, so young pre-readers can choose the page they want to go to. This is a very important navigation feature for young readers to give them a sense of independent control.
Angelina Ballerina and Miss Spider's Tea Party, from Callaway Digital Arts, do a particularly good job of letting young readers navigate in an intuitive but clear way, letting them listen to a page repeatedly if they wish to. This is important, especially since these apps have quite a bit of text on one page.
Wild About Books keeps the original page layout from the books. This works well for the rhythm and rhyming of the book, but I find the font to be quite small for children to read along with the story or read by themselves. Some picture books, like The Competition from Piccolo Books, use turns within a page (with an arrow next to the text), as well as larger page turns (with page swipes or arrows at the top of a page). I wonder how well children use this more complex navigation.
I would love your thoughts on the issue of navigation for children's book apps.
- What is important to you in terms of navigating a book app?
- What works well with children you've watched interacting with apps?
For other articles in this series, please see Evaluating Book Apps for Children: A Mini-Series.
©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.