James D Law

iPad publishing experiments

There's no denying that the Alice franchise from Atomic Antelope set the bar very high for book apps (as opposed to iBooks) – they are clearly geniuses (I’ve just bought Chris Stevens' book to boot) but I wonder if there’s an opportunity to go beyond the physics enhanced reading experience toward something that entertains and educates at the same time.

So what do I mean by entertain and educate? Seeing Alice joggle and wiggle around the screen depending on how the reader influences the accelerometer is great but it has got to wear thin at some stage (Chris mentions that himself in the book as it happens) – plus it’s not really teaching the reader anything (which isn’t always the point of course).

If you can combine a strong narative with rich interactive learning we could create a range of apps that tick two boxes, a younger audience will be entertained and educated (without realising it) and their parents will get that fuzzy feeling of buying stuff that boosts their IQ whilst keeping them occupied – happy days.

Here are some designs and themes I’ve been messing around with:

iPad design - James Law

Imagine if you could build an app about The Secret Science of World War II © JDL – an emotive, international subject. Think a bit like Horrible Histories – tell the story with a bit of panache and attitude, draw the reader in with the tales of Operation Chastise and the secret survial skills of pilots and then build interactive tools that teach them about the science behind the events.

Make these tools really interactive (see below Call that Interactive?) and not just 'ooh, look it moves'. Make them so that whilst they interact they learn, they see what happens if they drop the bouncing bomb at the wrong height, they realise that momentum, intertia, centrifugal forces, resitance and the likes all had to be calculated accurately to achieve these heroic events. Make it like visiting the science museum and playing with those great interactive exhibits. Make it fun and essential.

The key question as ever is cost – could the income beat dev costs? You've got to believe the answer is yes. Create an app of exquisite quality, get the launch PR right (see Chapter one of Designing for the iPad), make it your art (see Seth Godin)…