KinderSights: How Do Parents and Teachers Search for Apps?

This month we expand on the data we teased you with when we introduced KinderSights – what are parents and teachers searching for in KinderTown?

Report Summary

Background on the Data

  • The data set includes 121,015 searches in the KinderTown App from June 20th, 2012 to July 10th, 2012
  • Overall, KinderTown has collected data from more than 730,000 searches

Most Popular Search Criteria

  • Age is by far the most popular search criteria, with 50.2% of searches specifying an age criteria. Price was second at 40.6% followed by Platform (31.8%) and Type (30.2%)

Age as a Search Criteria

  • Parents are still heavily reliant on target age as an indicator of  an app’s appropriateness for their children.
  • Also, younger ages are the most often searched. The data follows that age 3 is the most popular, age 4 is the second most popular, and so on up to age 8 being the least popular.

Price as a Search Criteria 

  • It is somewhat surprising that price isn’t the most popular given app buyers’ reputations for wanting something for nothing.
  • 3.1% of searches are for PAID apps, showing that at least some users recognize quality is correlated with price.

Platform as a Search Criteria

  • Despite an overwhelming number of users accessing KinderTown from iPads (more than 70%), more than 80% of searches negated a choice of platform.
  • Seeing them as a better value, we were also surprised that only 3% of searches were for universal apps. This means, marketing an app as universal isn’t an effective differentiator.

Type as a Search Criteria

  • Language is the most popular subject (35%) followed by Math (34.2%)
  • Pre-Reading, Number Sense, Reading, and Geometry (which includes Shapes) are the most popular categories within those subjects.
  • Developers should refrain from assuming it’s a great idea to target the most popular areas. These are often (if not always) the most competitive app markets too.

Our full report follows.

First – Some Background On the Data

As of writing, KinderTown users have performed more than 730,000 searches using our early childhood education-focused search filter (for those of you trying to guess at how quickly KinderTown is growing, we reached 500,000 searches just last month).

Our filter allows users to search using 4 criteria:

1. Platform – Users can select whether they want to see “All”, “iPhone” apps, “iPad” apps, or “Universal” apps (For the uninitiated, that is, an iPad app and an iPhone app bundled into a single app. Twice the fun!) Users can only select one option.

2. Age – Users can choose to search multiple ages at once. Their options are ages 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Users can choose to search any ages. They need not choose to search consecutive ages. Please note, we did not add ages 7 and 8 until our update on June 20th, which is one reason why we limit the data below to data collected since that date.

3. Price – Users can search “Any,” “Paid,” or “Free.”

4. Type – This is what we call the various subject selections. KinderTown provides up to three levels of subject specification. Our top-level subjects include “Math,” “Language,” “Art,” “Science,” and “Social Studies.” A user can only select one subject but she can choose how specific to be. For instance, she can select just Math and return all results for Math, or she can select Math > Number Sense and see just the Math results also labelled Number Sense. Finally, she can select Math > Number Sense > Number Writing and only see those Number Sense, Math apps that practice Number Writing. Users can also perform a search across all subjects.

All of the data below was collected from the KinderTown app between June 20th, 2012 and July 10th, 2012 in accordance with our privacy policy.  The data set population is 121,015 searches.

It’s important to note that KinderTown is a tool for adults and we market the KinderTown app to adults. We do not knowingly collect personal information for children under 13.

Enough of that now. Let’s start breaking the data down.

The Most Popular Search Criteria

Many searches are conducted without specifying any criteria at all. First time users are likely interested in just seeing what exactly is in KinderTown anyway, and returning users sometimes find themselves without a specific learning objective or purpose and just want to haphazardly browse the approved KinderTown apps. They’re all great and we should know since we reviewed everyone of them, so we can’t really fault this technique.

But when users do have a specific intent, which criteria do they care the most about? In other words, which search criteria are most often specified?

We’ll take a look at each of these one by one.

Age – Everybody Was So Young

It’s not surprising that age is the most popular. Most parents are conditioned to select items for their children based on age, whether it’s clothing or toys. Although it’s an imperfect label with regards to the appropriateness of an app, since we all know by now how children progress at different rates, especially in the earliest years of childhood, it is often a good starting point.

That being said, users still conduct half of their searches without any preference for age at all.

When parents do select an age, these ages are searched most often:

We only recently added the ability to search by ages 7 and 8, so it’s possible, if not likely, that the KinderTown user base is still skewed toward users who are interested in apps for younger kids. Even so, anecdotal evidence tells us that parents tend to search more for apps in the 3-6 age range than 7-8, which is when most children are more deeply integrated into formal schooling.

Price – No Free Lunches, But There Are Free Apps

Developers who are frustrated with the price sensitivity of app buyers have to at least be comforted by the fact that price was only the 2nd most popular criteria. There are even some users who searched for “Paid” apps. Rationality has been restored to the app market! There is hope!

Although, it is possible that those searches were just to see what type of apps the crazies are paying for.

KinderTown is not more likely to approve a subpar app just because it’s cheap. We have many more paid apps in KinderTown than free apps. In fact, less than 10% of KinderTown apps are 100% free, meaning they don’t have in-app purchases or require any payment for full use of the app.

That still means there are more than a handful of great free apps. This is something we’ll dig into in future KinderSights.

Platform – iPads Rule

Although the KinderTown app is a universal app, nearly 70% of our users access KinderTown from an iPad. We can hardly claim to be marketing more aggressively towards iPad users than users of its smaller brethren, which unequivocally tells us that the iPad is the tool du jour for playing kids apps.

Why then, do nearly 80% of searches not include iPad as a criteria?

We think it’s because iPad users are perfectly fine with buying iPhone apps and using them with their iPads. Users have told us this directly and the data seems to support this.

It initially surprised us users weren’t more interested in Universal apps, but it’s not hard to rationalize why they aren’t. Kids most likely aren’t jumping from iPhone to iPad and vice versa. This doesn’t mean that taking the extra time and resources to build a universal app is a bad decision, especially if you plan to build both iPhone and iPad versions of the app anyway. It’s easier to market one app instead of two. It’s also easier to only have to deal with one app submission process.

It does mean, however, that marketing an app as universal likely isn’t an effective differentiator.

Type – What Savvy Parents Want

Type of app might be the least popular criteria, but not by much, and we think it’s some of the most important data we have.

First, let’s look at how specific KinderTown users like to get when choosing an academic subject:

This data tells us that 69.8% of searches didn’t specify a type. 30.2% of searches specified at least the Subject level. 17.6% of searches went at least as far as the Category level, and 6.4% of searches went all the way to the specific concept level.

The most popular subjects are:

No surprises here. Modern education, for better or worse, prioritizes Math and Language and KinderTown users follow suit.

The  Subjects are broken down into 20 additional “Categories.” The top 10 categories across all subjects are:

The most popular categories within each subject are:

The Categories are further broken down into 24 concepts. (Note: the Art, Science, and Social Studies subjects don’t have any concepts. Also, the Language categories of Storytelling, Vocabulary, and Comprehension don’t break down into concepts either.) The top 10 concepts are:

The most popular concepts within Math and Language are:

The standouts here are Letters and Sounds in Language and Shapes and Counting/Reasoning in Math. Overall, Language is more popular with parents which follows from our data about subjects.

Don’t make this mistake – we highly discourage developers from looking at this list and coming to the conclusion that they should make or even market their apps to coincide with the most popular subjects and concepts because one thing we have not discussed here is how competitive each of these areas are.

We’ve looked at thousands upon thousands of early childhood education apps, and at a glance we can tell you that the most popular subjects are the most competitive, and they’re likely more competitive than they are more popular. We will explore this idea in future KinderSights.


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