App onboarding for kids: how Budge Studios creates a more engaging experience for families

Posted by Josh Solt (Partner Developer Manager, Kids Apps at Google Play) and Noemie Dupuy (Founder & Co-CEO at Budge Studios)

Developers spend a considerable amount of resources driving users to download their apps, but what happens next is often the most critical part of the user journey. User onboarding is especially nuanced in the kids space since developers must consider two audiences: parents and children. When done correctly, a compelling onboarding experience will meet the needs of both parents and kids while also accounting for unique considerations, such as a child’s attention span.

Budge Studios has successfully grown their catalog of children’s titles by making onboarding a focal point of their business. Their target demographic is three to eight-year olds, and their portfolio of games include top titles featuring Strawberry Shortcake, Hello Kitty, Crayola, Caillou and The Smurfs.

“First impressions matter, as do users’ first experience with your app. In fact, 70%1 of users who delete an app will do so within a day of having downloaded it, leaving little time for second chances. As an expert in kids’ content, Budge tapped into our knowledge of kids to improve and optimize the onboarding experience, leading to increased initial game-loop completion and retention.” – Noemie, Founder & Co-CEO at Budge Studios

Three key ways Budge Studios designs better onboarding experiences:


1. Make sure your game is tailor-made for kids

When Budge released their app Crayola Colorful Creatures, they looked at data to identify opportunities to create a smoother onboarding flow for kids. At launch, only 25% of first-time users were completing the initial game loop. Budge analyzed data against gameplay and realized the last activity was causing a drastic drop-off. It required kids to use the device’s microphone, and that proved too challenging for very young kids. Budge was able to adjust the initial game loop so that all the activities were accessible to the youngest players. These adjustments almost tripled the initial loop completion, resulting in 74% of first-time users progressing to see additional activities.

2. Earn parents trust by providing real value upfront

Budge has a large of portfolio of apps. Earning parents’ trust by providing valuable and engaging experiences for kids is important for retaining users in their ecosystem and achieving long term success.

With every new app, Budge identifies what content is playable for free, and what content must be purchased. Early on, Budge greatly limited the amount of free content they offered, but over time has realized providing high quality free content enhances the first-time user experience. Parents are more willing to spend on an app if their child has shown a real interest in a title.

Working with top kids’ brands means that Budge can tap into brand loyalty of popular kids characters to provide value. To launch Strawberry Shortcake Dreams, Budge decided to offer Strawberry Shortcake, the most popular character in the series, as a free character. Dress Up Dreams is among the highest converting apps in the Budge portfolio, indicating that giving away the most popular character for free helped conversions rather than hurting it.

3. Test with real users

Budge knows there is no substitute for direct feedback from its end-users, so Budge involves kids every step of the way. Budge Playgroup is a playtesting program that invites families to try out apps at the alpha, beta and first-playable development stages.

The benefits from early testing can be as basic as understanding how the size and coordination of kids’ hands affect their ability to complete certain actions or even hold the device, and as specific as pinpointing a less-than-effective button.

In the testing stages of Strawberry Shortcake Holiday Hair, Budge caught an issue with the main menu of the app, which would not have been evident without observing kids using the app.

Prior to Playtesting:

After Playtesting:


In the original design, users were prompted to start gameplay by audio cues. During testing, it was clear that the voiceover was not sufficient in guiding kids to initiate play, and that additional visual clues would significantly improve the experience. A simple design change resulted in a greatly enhanced user experience.

The onboarding experience is just one component of an app, but just like first impressions, it has a disproportionate impact on your users’ perception of your app. As Budge has experienced, involving users in testing your app, using data to flag issues and providing real value to your users upfront, creates a smoother, more accessible onboarding experience and leads to better results.

For more best practices on developing family apps and games, please check out The Family Playbook for developers. And visit the Android Developers website to stay up-to-date with features and best practices that will help you grow a successful business on Google Play.

1.http://www.cmswire.com/customer-experience/mobile-app-retention-5-key-strategies-to-keep-your-customers/

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