Recently I stumbled upon some comments on Twitter by a cute redheaded cartoon with glasses named Teacher Tilly. I liked the name and the look of the icon so I decided to check out the app, Tilly’s Petting Farm. I love the colorful illustrations and the adorable animals in the app. I also enjoy the fact that the narrator uses complete sentences when an animal is selected, as opposed to simply naming the animal. Additionally, there is a delightful question mode in which the child is prompted to point to objects in response to questions. It is evident that a teacher was involved in the creation of this app.
I sent a message to Teacher Tilly via Twitter in response to some of their tweets and to let them know I liked their app. Several messages later, I learned that Teacher Tilly is, in fact, Vanesa and Tayari, a husband and wife indie development team located in the Netherlands. I was excited to learn all of the similarities between us. Both wives have teaching backgrounds and are mainly responsible for illustrations and graphics. Both husbands write the code and are fairly new to iOS development. We are all parents who are interested in making quality apps for children. I thought it might be fun to learn more about the parents behind Teacher Tilly and hear their thoughts about their new app:
First, tell us a little bit about yourselves?
We are the parents of two young children. Our oldest son is three years old. Our youngest is one year old. I have been teaching elementary school for over 10 years and my husband has been teaching teenagers and adults for over 6 years now. We live in the Netherlands.
How did you get interested in writing apps?
We have always been playing video games. We’ve enjoyed that very much. We want our small children to be able to play video games, too. We gave our son Tayari’s old iPhone so he can play apps. We prefer educational apps, so we started looking for them in the AppStore. That’s when the problem started for us. The choice in Dutch educational apps was very limited. So we decided we can start making them ourselves rather than waiting for others to do it for us. It was too expensive to have somebody else make the apps we wanted. The only way we could get the app that we wanted was to make it ourselves. If the mountain won’t come to us, we’ll build our own mountain. We are still climbing.
Did you find it difficult to build the first app?
It was a very long process. My husband and I both had to learn new skills. I had to learn how to draw using Illustrator. He had to learn how to program using Xcode. We both had zero knowledge about these things when we started working on the app. The first few months, we were only busy with the learning part.
Vanesa, how does your experience as a mom and a teacher influence your app?
Being true schoolteachers in heart, we of course preferred educational games. In every app idea we get, I’m constantly seeing ways to make it educational. Also I get lots of educational ideas about it, that are not meant for the app, so we publish them on our website.
Tayari, what things do you do differently in designing apps for children than you would when creating apps for an adult?
If you design apps for a toddler you have to look at how he uses the device. How he holds the device and touches it. In our petting farm app we decided that we do not want accidental taps or swipes to change the image or take them out of the app. That is why we included the little tractor slider to exit each image. If you accidentally tap the exit button you can tap anywhere in the screen to make it go away. If you slide the little tractor you will go to the previous screen. The child makes a decision to leave. For an adult we would have left the slider out. Also we might have made it possible to use a swiping gesture to switch images and have the question mode menu slide directly into the image itself without the extra steps. For a toddler this is more confusing. In our “lite” version that is coming out soon we made sure you have to tap a few times on a link to the app store before it takes you out of the app. This reduces the chance for accidental taps. Our app has no written text in it (except for the lite version which tells the parents how many taps it takes to leave the app). Everything is spoken.
We left out a lot of frills that would make the app more attractive for parents, like a melody that plays in the background or small animations like floating clouds in the background of the images. These things might make it look snazzier but it also distracts the toddler. The one thing we did do for the parents, and by doing so we go against Apple’s advice, is to be able to override the audio. Apple advises to override the audio mute controls if your app depends on audio. Besides developers we are also parents. We understand how important it is to be able to turn off the sound of an app. The little ones still have the animations to keep them busy, and it helps keep parents sane.
Our sons test out our apps in every stage of the development. We let them play a rough version and see how they respond. Our 3 year old is very verbal so he asks us why isn’t this doing something etc. We also see his frustration if he tries something and it doesn’t work. If that happens we change it.
What are your goals as developers?
World domination. We hid subliminal messages in all our audio. In a few years we will have a small army that does our bidding! MWUAHAHAHAH
Erhm, I mean we want to learn enough skills to make a diverse set of apps for different age groups. These apps should make it possible for parents to “tutor” their children at home. In The Netherlands, the government is reducing the amount of money they want to spend on schools and education, so schools have a harder time to help children. Our apps will need to cover the same curriculum that schools offer, but in a different form. Ideally, if you are the homeschool type of person, our apps would cover all you would need to learn in the language department.
In the beginning we will mainly focus on vocabulary and grammar. Language is very important to us. If it all goes well we might cover other classes like history, math and geography etc.. But this is far in the future. For now we focus on what we know and that is small children as we have two of those running around.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have any new apps you are working on?
We are currently working on two apps. The first app that we want to finish is like Tilly’s Petting farm, but It’s a different theme. We even made a special drawing in it as a result of a request we’ve got from someone in Twitter. The second app is an interactive story. The story is based on my son. Some of his favorite things and stories are mixed in our idea for the app.
I really enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about the makers of Teacher Tilly. I hope you did, too.
But, wait! There’s more!
I have four promo codes to give away for Tilly’s Petting Farm, two for the iPad® and two for the iPhone®. If you are interested, please leave a comment below to let me know how to contact you and which device you prefer. I will give them to the first four people to comment and request them. Don’t forget to look for Teacher Tilly on Facebook and Twitter. You can view a video of their app on YouTube. And if you like their app, please consider writing a review for them in iTunes!
Update: Promo codes have been used. Thanks!
|Tilly’s Petting Farm
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