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Developer Interview with Odlie of CotCotCot-Apps.com at The iMums

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Today’s interview is with Odlie of CotCotCot-Apps.com . To learn more about his company, please visit his website, visit him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. Check out his free coloring pages from their title “Shape Up” as well!

Tell us a little about yourself?
logo colored Developer Interview with Odlie of CotCotCot Apps.com at The iMumsCotCotCot-apps.com is a small company located in the cosmopolitan city of Brussels, Belgium. I’m a book lover at heart, and the birth of my daughter 5 years ago was the perfect pretext to start collecting picture books – new and vintage. As a fan of many different styles and genres, I found that that the publishing industry for kids was incredibly diverse and prolific. What luck!

Although we have so many wonderful author/illustrators in Belgium and Continental Europe, I’m particularly fond of Anglo-Saxon, Japanese and Korean artists. I’ve also recently started looking at Eastern European illustrators, but find that limited access and language barriers can be problematic.

Rather than view it as an obstacle, I see the current difficulties faced by the publishing industry as an opportunity to make something out of my passion for picture books.

How did the idea for your app come about?
We wanted our daughter to start learning other languages from an early age. Yet, I did not want her to “catch” my horrible French accent (certainly a very contagious bug!). So, I bought her English DVDs and books with CDs –which, even as such a commitment required a certain budget, also gave me a very good excuse to travel regularly to London. 😉

When I first heard of the iPad, I did not see the point of having one in addition to the laptop we already owned. It wasn’t until we were given an iPad and discovered the kids apps developed by “Winged Chariot” and “FirstyFish” that I caught a glimpse of a whole new world of possibilities.

The iPad concretely offered a solution to a set of problems we had encountered previously. One of those was that traveling with a small child meant having to carry a Teddy Bear, Spare Teddy #1 and #2, a blanket, a few toys, a few books, DVDs, and so on… The iPad offered an assortment entertaining and educational possibilities in one, slender carry-on.

With that in mind, I started looking for artists with original stories and a creative, strong design that we, as parents, would feel comfortable sharing with our own children. When I found Cecile Eyen’s gorgeous book – a lovely story of little cows trying to escape their boring square meadow – I was sold by its distinctive character.

Shape Up ad banner 250 125 Developer Interview with Odlie of CotCotCot Apps.com at The iMumsHow long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?
The most time-consuming part of the process was setting up CotCotCotApps.com as a legal entity in Belgium. 😉

I had already discovered Cecile Eyen’s book before founding CotCotCotApps.com, and, fortunately for us, she has been fantastic at every step of the way, quickly agreeing to join me on this e-adventure. Given that the traditional players had already published her work and that I had no personal track record in the publishing field, this was no small feat! I am truly grateful that she trusted us on our first project.

Once the company details were in order, it took CotCotCotApps.com roughly 3 months to develop our first app, Shape Up, based on Cecile’s lovely story.

Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?
ShapeUp Photoshop 03 small Developer Interview with Odlie of CotCotCot Apps.com at The iMumsWe did the entire development in-house and with handful of talented friends. Having ownership of and access to the application code is essential because our hope at CotCotCotApps.com is to shape the overall structure of our apps in a way that can be efficiently duplicated for future eBooks (small animations and games excluded).

What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?
Finding out exactly how complicated simplicity is!

Considering the cognitive complexity of our little readers, predicting user behaviors – how they interact with the screen, how they discover the animations, how they learn – is an enormous challenge. In our early release, we tended to downplay the book’s animations in order to extend the app’s life: by allowing readers to focus first and foremost on the story and the text. Responsive to early feedback, we’ve changed to a more multilayered style in our latest version,
featuring more and more varied animations and navigation options.
Yet, at the same time, the in-app navigation must remain intuitive and easy to understand, in particular for children who cannot read on their own just yet. I can’t count the number of times my daughter had to ask me for help because she was stuck using other apps and simply didn’t know which command to activate on the home menu. What becomes clear is that this type of creative process is a journey of continual improvement.

Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?
Best app for kids ShapeUpGameFunSound small Developer Interview with Odlie of CotCotCot Apps.com at The iMumsAgain, I’d like to mention first and foremost Cecile Eyen, the author of Shape Up: we would not have gotten very far without her help and full support. Having Cecile’s final approval before we released the app was extremely important to CotCotCotApps.com.

Additionally, our friends have been and remain tremendously helpful providing feedback, ideas and encouragement. We had endless discussions and proofreading sessions with our native English-speaking friends (and mothers) Julia, Marisa and Priya in order to figure out just the right translation from the original French. People tend to think English is fairly easy, how wrong they are!

For the British English version, we “kidnapped” Priya during her city trip to Brussels. Not to worry, she got chips and beer in return 😉 Those are among some of our favorite memories.

We recently redesigned part of the app features with the generous help of Agnès Moreau, a friend who also happens to be a graphic designer. She brought several new ideas to the table that helped give more texture to the games section. Additionally, she redesigned the start menu as well as helped simplify the in-app navigation.

What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?
Absolutely! We have a lot of ideas for CotCotCotApps.com future collaborations, however we prefer to take our time and be very selective. We only work with the people we like 😉

We are about to release an updated version of our first app, Shape Up, incorporating the feedback we’ve received over the past few weeks. In the updated version, we added American English, and redesigned the game sections to include some exciting new features.

We have a few projects already in the works, and while I can’t tell you too much at this stage, I can say that one of them will be a collaboration with your fellow-countrywoman Devi, whom we met in Brussels through our friend Julia. We’re already very excited about it because she has a gorgeous style, very recognizable, and some great ideas that use the full potential of the iPad.

We are also exploring joint projects with the cultural center of Redu (the so-called “Village of Books,” located in the Belgian Ardennes) and Le Wolf in the historic district of Brussels, a bookshop, reading center and coffee shop for children and their families.

What advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?
The population we serve deserves extra care and services with the best content, design and purposes in mind. You can’t and should not cheat them! CotCotCotApps.com has a strong set of values from which we don’t want to diverge. We’re not in this business to make quick cash, but rather to pass along our passion for books and contribute to building a sustainable app industry. We fully support initiatives such as MomsWithApps, The Children App Manifesto and independent app reviewers like TheiMum. Among many others of their kind, we believe that these independent resources can contribute to the professionalization of the kids apps industry.

We are book lovers and firmly believe that there’s room for printed books and eBooks / apps to coexist. CotCotCotApps.com see apps as an extension of the reading experience, a special moment to share with children, grand-children, friends, students. – Odile

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