Timbuktu Spearheads iPad Apps for Kids

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Yesterday saw the launch of Timbuktu: the first iPad magazine for kids. The inaugural issue is now available for free through iTunes.

The magazine, which aims to present kids with news using colorful graphics, simple language, and sound, joins numerous apps targeted to children on the market. Indeed, since its launch, one of the iPad’s unforeseen positive surprises has been its use as a helpful interactive learning tool for kids. The device is even being used as a tool to educate children with autism.[more]

And yet, while there’s been unanimous praise for Timbuktu’s concept so far, the response to Timbuktu’s design has been mixed. Some critics are already calling it an interactive disaster and early comments have mocked its rather, ahem, phallic logo.

There’s no doubt that the magazine comes with great design pedigree. Renowned, Milan-based, 27-year-old Olimpia Zagnoli, also creator of the New York Times “The Scoop” app, art directed the magazine, and illustrators from around the world—San Francisco, New Delhi, Berlin, Milan—contributed to the first issue. However, the question is whether what appeals to adults and designers will also appeal to kids, who have their own unique educational needs and design perspectives.

Still, the creators appear to have done the requisite research prior to the launch of its product. Says founder Elena Favelli, in response to one blogger’s comment that the app misses an opportunity to create a deeper level of interaction with its audience:

“Timbuktu is not meant to be a showcase of technicalities. It is meant to be a place where the interaction design is simple and clear, with full focus on content. We actually had three focus groups with children of different age-range before launching it and what we found out is that children like very much the simplicity of the design and interaction.”

What do you think? Could Timbuktu benefit from a deeper level of interaction, more kid-friendly graphics, and an improved logo? Or is all this critique just sour grapes over a successful launch? Let us know in the comments field.

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