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How to design a meteor watch mobile app for 11-year-olds

Our CEOs Richard and Vera visited William Perkin school in London to meet with group of Elite Scientists and discuss mobile app design in a 1 hour workshop

Vera Nesvadbova
Vera Nesvadbova

Empire Elements’ CEOs Richard Kacerek and Vera Nesvadbova visited William Perkin Church of England High School in Greenford on 5 Feb 2020 to discuss a new app idea with a group of young Elite Scientists. The main goal of our 1-hour discovery workshop was to find out how to design an app that would appeal to a young audience and what makes them download and use a mobile app.

One of our side projects, UK’s meteor observation network UKMON, aims to bring kids, astronomy and space closer together and entice their interest in meteors and observing the night sky. Since the current way of recording an observed meteor is outdated, we wanted to find out how we could make an appealing mobile app for observing meteors aimed at kids. Are 11-year-olds even interested in observing the night sky, watching out for meteors and recording them in real-time? What would make the app exciting, and how should it work?

The Elite Scientists jumped on board quickly, and after a short introduction, Richard showed the initial idea on presentation slides. As expected, they did not like the current way of recording meteors on a sheet of paper or a voice recording device. Science usually requires to record at least 1 hour long observing session, which is just too long attention span for the young audience.

It was clear that the current way of observing meteors is not going to work with the young audience. So we asked why and how would they design an app that kids would like to use.

“This kind of behaviour research brought fascinating results, something we did not anticipate” – Says Richard, Empire Elements CEO

Accessibility and user experience

Probably the most common request is that the app needs to be easy to use. The young scientists understand that as an app, it can be installed without registration, or at least can work in a guest mode. Apple has been promoting this to the broader developer community for some time. The user should be able to install the app, open it and use as a guest without the need to sign in at first. This is precisely what the younger audience wants. The old way of registering first and then using the app is not popular any more. Eventually offering to sign in with Apple ID, for example, is much more streamlined because the user does not need to fill in forms and passwords. Yup, people hate passwords.

Educational and fun

The app would need to be exciting and informative, young scientists say. The app needs to educate and guide the user, best on using real-life examples. Showing the younger audience what a meteor is and how it looks. Users can then choose from a variety of examples that lead to the desired action. It needs to explain the scientific value, what discoveries they could make and make it fun.

A colourful character called Bob, created by the young scientists would be a perfect partner to explain and teach the youngsters more about meteors, why and how to observe them and what’s the science behind it.

Customisation options

A good mobile app should offer a level of customisation like a nickname and profile pictures or choosing a different coloured theme. Personalising the user experience is something a younger audience takes for granted, and it is a must-have.

Free vs paid

Empire Elements and the Elite Scientists discussed the pros and cons of app monetisation. Surprisingly the younger generation is used to adverts. They would not mind seeing adverts which would monetise the app. Additionally, they confirmed it would be a good idea to collect points by using the app, which could then be donated to a charity of their choice. An interesting model that would reward users for the in-app time and then pass that reward as a charity donation.

Gamification

An exciting aspect of app development was met with a positive response. People like to build up their profiles, show status progression and gamification makes the app fun. Collecting points and prizes with leaderboard promote good competition.

The Elite Scientists were tasked to create a mobile app name that would make them want to download the app. These are the names they came up with:

  • Mete-Your
  • Meteor Garden, Universe, Future, Galaxy
  • M+N Meteors
  • Meteor Madness
  • Galaxy Shooter

App reviews

A really nice app store page, genuine in-app screens and a lot of reviews make the app a success in the eyes of younger users. Reviews, in particular, are critical. There are a lot of apps out there, and our app would need to stand out, have a clear message and show how it helps the user.

Conclusion

A mobile application for younger audiences cannot be boring, fake or promise something it does not deliver. It cannot spoil the experience by too many unnecessary or irrelevant in-app notifications. The young audience doesn’t like to be bombarded with lots of notifications; they would be inclined to delete the app and never use it again.

Empire Elements would like to thank Anita Kapila, Science Teacher & Leader of Elite Scientists at William Perkin Church of England High School and all the future scientists that participated in this discovery workshop.

Richard Kacerek talking to the Elite Scientists at William Perkin school, London

Elite Scientists at William Perkin show their mobile app ideas to Richard