Sesame Workshop wants to improve iPad apps for kids with free developer guidelines

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In an effort to improve the quality of kid-friendly iPad apps, the nonprofit group behind long-running children's series "Sesame Street" has published a free paper to aid developers.

Sesame Workshop's Best Practices Guide for Children's App Development is now available for download. In addition to insight from the organization's more than 40 years of children's media testing, the paper, highlighted on Monday by All Things D, includes more than 50 touchscreen studies conducted by Sesame Workshop.

Those tests found that the most intuitive gesture for children is a simple tap on the screen. Kids also like to trace and draw on the screen but have a hard time not lifting their finger, so Sesame Workshop recommends that developers make their applications support partial completion.

Children also find swiping a tablet screen intuitive if there are visual indications on where to swipe. Children can also drag items onscreen but tend to have difficulty with "finger-on-screen continuity," so supporting partial completion is recommended.

On an iPad, children tend to have more trouble with maneuvers such as pinching, tilting or shaking the device, multi-touch, and double tapping.

The best interactive applications for children include a character or friendly adult who greets them once the application is opened. Instructions are then presented up front, while developers are recommended to use time-outs in order to suggest to children what to do next.

The studies also found that children tend to hold iPads in landscape mode and rest their palms at the bottom of the device. As a result, developers are not recommended to place icons at the bottom of the screen, where they are likely to be accidentally pressed.

It's also recommended that children be required to listen to the text on a page in its entirety before the features on the page are enabled. This prevents the child from becoming distracted by selectable options on the page.

Children and schools have become an important market for Apple's iPad, which is the dominant product in the worldwide tablet market. Recent data shows that the iPad is definitively replacing sales of traditional PCs to the education market.