Today’s interview is with Esther Naalden, founder of Heppi (pronounced ‘happy’) and designer of the lovable Bo the Giraffe who stars in childrens books, paintings and storybook apps including one of our latest reviews, Bo’s Dinnertime. You can learn more about Esther in her interview below and also on Heppi Apps Facebook and Twitter. We look forward to seeing which titles Bo will star in next!
Hi Esther! Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Esther Naalden born and raised in the Netherlands, when I went to College my father advised me to learn for a profession instead of going to Arts school. He said: “If you really want to be an artist than it will come eventually but if not you will still have a degree.”. After working for several years I made the decision that the time had come and I became a full time artist. I founded Heppi and created Bo the Giraffe, who I used and still use as my main character, first in my paintings, soon after in my children’s books and more recently in my two Apps Bo’s Bedtime Story and Bo’s Dinnertime. All this with the idea to create cheerful notes in the world of children.
How did the idea for your app come about?
The idea of making Apps came along during a discussion with my husband while driving in our car. We were discussing the merits of digital media and the role it could play in the education of kids. We saw in that time (beginning 2011) a lot of children’s books being digitalized without using the full potential of tablets or smartphone. We decided at that moment we wanted to develop Apps and use the advantages of the interactive possibilities to engage children in a story/game. The themes for Apps would be the same as my books; the daily routines of children.
And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?
It took us 8 months to develop our first App Bo’s Bedtime Story, but our second app Bo’s Dinnertime has taken only 4,5 months.
Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?
We joined forces with an App developer, who participates in the proceeds of our App. For the sounds and music that we think is vital for a good App we joined forces with two musicians, who also participate.
What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?
The waiting for new test releases, which never seemed to be fast enough. Although we knew our App developer did his best and actually worked really fast.
Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?
My husband was already involved from the beginning and because of the participation structure we had a lot of support form each other (app developer, musicians and us) During the testing phase and also launch phase we had a lot of support from friends but also other App developers.
What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?
We launched last December Bo’s Bedtime Story and in May Bo’s Dinnertime and our third App Bo’s … is already in the beta-testing phase. We have set a target to have at least 5 Apps on the market before the end of this year.
What sort of feedback has your app been receiving so far?
We have received great reviews on Bo’s Bedtime Story, but the best thing has been winning the prestigious Dutch Media Ukkie (Toddler) Award 2012 for Best App while the winners for TV-show and Website were Sesame Street and Miffy. Being in the same line-up as those two is the biggest compliment you can receive. The first responses and reviews of Bo’s Dinnertime have also been very good and who knows what can happen.
And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?
To be sure that you have something that will distinguish their App from other Apps. Whether it’s a funny looking character or a theme and keep that the focal point of your App.