Xander is an educational app designed to help young South African children learn about Afrikaans prepositions whilst developing a healthier relationship with technology.
While our team has been involved in the design of simplistic mobile games in the past, after our meeting with the development team behind Xander it was decided that we really needed to take things up to the next level. Knowing the daily shower of colour and excitement that children see everyday we knew we had to design an eye catching and mesmerising experience that wouldn’t feel as if they were at school. Balancing visual
engagement while avoiding distracting the young users from the education aspects of the games was an experience in trail and error. Additionally, the difficulty of the ‘lessons’ had to be adjusted so as to provide a mixture of challenge and ease for 6 to 8 years olds learning a second language. Perhaps a blessing and curse, our head designer on the project is barely fluent in Afrikaans, and made for an excellent test subject.
Once we had designed Xander’s mystical forest we started putting together a group of colourful friends to keep him company on his adventures into the unknown land of prepositions. Even a language as scary as Afrikaans is less frightening when you have the right friends with you.
With our team of friendly animal faces assembled we started to turn the client’s rough gameplay concepts into interactive environments that children would feel encouraged to explore and interact with.
Designing the two-dimensional forest scene in layers allowed us to create a sense of depth when the children tilted their devices. Small animated details within the scenes encouraged users to explore the environment in search of the answers they were looking for, while correct answers were always rewarded with cute animations to
keep young players engaged and motivated. As repetition is an important aspect of learning at such young ages, we knew it was vital that we design with variation in mind so that the children could play through the 3 different games styles and not loose interest. Designing a variable system of tasks and solutions for each game type ensured that no one play through would be the same. Utilising these variations allowed us to stay within the project budget without sacrificing the visual interest we had aimed to create through the illustrations and character animations.