CBeebies Playtime, a mobile app for Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire devices has launched. It’s designed for our audience of young children and their families, enabling them to play games featuring much loved CBeebies brands - anytime and anywhere.
The way children consume content is changing, Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s, explains with tablets and smartphones becoming increasingly important. That’s why we’re introducing our first Children’s app, offering our audience a safe and trusted environment for handheld devices, free from marketing and paid for updates, that enables children to learn through play alongside their favourite CBeebies characters.
My colleague Lizzie Leadbeater has written about the app’s features over on the CBeebies grown-ups blog and I’d like to share some insight into how we built the app.
Our aim was to create an app that was high quality, yet simple enough for even the youngest children to use, and to incorporate all the things children love about CBeebies; silliness, action, humour and excitement. But above all else, it needed to inspire creativity and imagination whilst being educationally beneficial.
CBeebies covers the 0 to 6 year old age range and within this, children have many development milestones. For example, a two year old has totally different requirements for learning and entertainment than a 6 year old, so we needed to produce content that could be enjoyed by all kids and their parents – something the CBeebies channel has excelled at over the years. We’ve taken that same approach with Playtime, providing an interactive experience that all of our audience can enjoy whilst applying the CBeebies philosophy of 'leaning through play'.
Developing for multiple devices
As many of you know, developing apps for different platforms and ecosystems is a costly and time-consuming process and as a publicly funded organisation we have a responsibility to reach as many of our audiences as possible, in the most cost-effective way. That’s why the initial platforms we are targeting at launch are Android, iOS and Kindle Fire.
These platforms represent a myriad of different devices being used in family households across the nation, and developing an application natively for each device type would also require a huge amount of resources from developers, designers, producers, project managers and testers.
Our solution was to build one core application based on a single code base that we could optimise for the required devices. It gave us the ability to efficiently build very high quality experiences, utilising the native features of the devices where possible and making the most of their visual display and audio playback capabilities.
As mentioned, the spread of devices on our target operating systems is huge. Within this spread there is a large difference in performance, available memory and screen sizes. It was necessary to make sure the devices had an optimised asset set that allowed the application to render the graphics as smoothly as possible, and use only an appropriate amount of memory to do so.
The graphics also had to work in screen size ratios that varied from squat rectangle to letter box. To accommodate this we implemented a system of button placement that relates to percentages rather than absolute positioning. This allows the Playtime app to scale and adapt position to even the most extreme screen real estate environments.
CBeebies Playtime has been developed so that extra features and games can be added in seamlessly across all these devices as well, allowing us to introduce new content and keep the app fresh.