Back in May 2011, my colleagues and I visited Omaha for the Big Omaha conference. It was a great conference and I got to meet a lot of cool people. During that week, we also took the time to visit Henry Doorly Zoo. It was a great zoo and I really enjoyed my visit there.
One thing I wished for that day was to have my son, Philip, with me. He was 20 months old at that time and I had to leave him home, but I knew he would have enjoyed the trip. Since then I made a promise to myself that at some point, I was going to take him to the zoo and introduce him to the world of animals.
It was only until a couple of months after my wife delivered our second son, Noah, that we finally had a chance to visit the zoo. Philip was very excited, but being a little kid, he got tired and fell asleep halfway through. It was then that I wished that there were an iPad app that could act as a digital zoo, so that my son would be able to learn more about animals at the comfort of our home.
ABC Wildlife is an interactive iPad app that attempts to introduce juniors to animals. The app features 80 different animals, complete with a series of photographs, interactive mini games and YouTube videos that will enrich the overall learning experience.
The animals are organized in alphabetical order to make it easier for your juniors to find. They are shown in a photo stream interface where each photograph is shown as a thumbnail and each animal group is separated by a black square indicating the next letter in the alphabets.
On the top right corner of each thumbnail, you can find an icon that indicates whether that photograph includes an interactive mini game or a YouTube video. A pointing finger shows that there is an interactive mini game that can be played, while a video icon indicates that a YouTube video is available if you choose to enable it and are connected to the internet.
When you tap to select a photograph, ABC Wildlife will show the photograph in full screen mode alongside a series of letters that will spell out the animal name. You can either swipe left and right to access the previous and next photograph, or you can tap the blue abc button on the top right corner to return to the photo stream interface. You can also tap any letter shown in the animal name to be shown a list of photographs belonging to the animals whose names start with that letter, allowing you to jump to that photograph instead.
What parents need to know
First, there is a lot of content in ABC Wildlife that I believe it would be difficult to finish the app in a single seating. Each animal has at least three full screen photographs and two YouTube videos. For each photograph, you can also tap the ! (exclamation mark) button to read some fun facts about the animal in the photograph.
The developer curates these facts from Wikipedia and selects the ones that might be overlooked by most people. I certainly didn't know about this fact:
Polar bears live only in areas that surround the North Pole, so contrary to common belief, penguins and polar bears could never naturally meet in the wild.
And this one:
Bulls are red-green color blind. In a bullfight the movement of the matador's cape is what provokes a reaction in the bull.
The developer also curates high quality photographs from Flickr that are available under Creative Commons licenses. This results in a great looking app, bringing a unique advantage over going to the zoo by being able to see the smaller sized animals more clearly through awesome macro photographs.
What I like about this app
I personally like all the little details in ABC Wildlife, such as the cute app mascot. If you pay close attention, you will see that the mascot is not only shown upside down holding the game/video thumbnail on the top left corner of each photograph, but it also shows up at the bottom holding up letter cards that spell the animal's name. I really like the different costumes that are drawn for the mascot when it is holding a different letter card.
Another detail I like is when you tap on a photograph to dismiss all the buttons, letters and menus, you will see a small Creative Commons logo at the bottom right corner. Tapping that logo will show which Wikipedia and Flickr links this slide uses to bring you the facts, the photographs and the mini game's photographs.
I also like the fact that the developer went out of their way to try to understand how the app will be used. For example, you would be greeted with a voice over when you tap a letter or when the next/previous photograph shows a different animal than the current one. The app would not play that voice over when you're just swiping through several photographs of the same animal. I consider this to be a good design decision.
Another design decision I appreciate is when you want to unlock the settings that is accessible from each photograph. As a parent, you would not want your juniors to access this by mistake. ABC Wildlife creatively uses a reverse pinch gesture to do this. This is not a common practice, but I believe this is a good one.
Simple things do add up to a great experience.
ABC Wildlife is a great way to bring the zoo closer to your juniors. It's one of the best implementations I've seen among many apps that bring the experience of going to the zoo into the comfort of your home. You will learn about new and exciting animals, such as agouti, emu, ibex, and many more. You will be intrigued by the fun Wikipedia facts on these animals. Most importantly, your juniors will enjoy the app and appreciate your efforts in getting the app.