Children's books are the perfect print medium to take the plunge into app conversion. They're image based, playful by nature, and full of imagination. Not to mention, the interactivity is great for exploration and discovery. With all of that going on, it's no wonder children's book apps are the new thing we keep hearing about.
Scarletta is publishing our first picture book this spring. And not only that, but the book is also in the process of becoming an app. That's right, Nalah and the Pink Tiger will be available as a bilingual app, in English and Spanish, for the iPad! But as exciting as that is--and it's pretty darn exciting--I found myself wondering just what goes into making an app. And since we're lucky enough to have the people who do this sort of thing in our same office, I only had to walk about twenty steps to find the Nalah app designer, Kelly, and ask her some questions.
First things first, there are multiple programs that you can use to develop apps. We happen to use a version of Adobe called DPS (or digital publishing suite) that allows you to create the layouts and animations right in Adobe. So we take the inDesign files originally created for printing, and within DPS we can add all the animations and sounds right to the original pages. We just have to make sure that the spreads are proportionate to the iPad screen, and off we go.
Then it's time to decide what will happen on the pages. The author and designer look at the spreads for places where there could be animation, sounds, audio, etc, and decide what will work best for the story. For Nalah, we have all of those things, so buttons had were created to trigger them. If you click (or tap in the case of the finished app) on any of the lined areas, it will trigger the button. For movement of Ernestina the Emu's eye (see image), Kelly made different versions of the swirl illustration that, when played one after another, look like it is spinning. This may seem easy, but as Kelly said, when you have complicated backgrounds and illustrations, it can be hard to cut out and manipulate the parts without messing up the background. Then you can attach sounds to it, or just let it move.
After all the pages are done, and we think it is what we want it to be, we upload it to Adobe's Folio Builder online, which creates a developer version of the app for us to test. Now we don't have HTML coders here, so that part is up to them.
Multiple people, including the author, spend time with the app--clicking on everything, letting it play, scrolling and rotating it--to make sure there aren't any glitches. If there are things that don't work, the designer goes back to the file and fixes it. Then it gets updated online, so that we can test the new version of the developer app all over again.
After this, things get taken out of our hands. Adobe creates the code that corresponds to the files, and we submit it to Apple. Apple then has to approve everything, and if they do, we have an app!
Obviously, this is a basic overview, and there are many elements that go into making an app that I don't have tech-savvy to understand. But if you have questions, be sure to leave them, and I will do my best to figure them out for you! And make sure to look for the app version of Nalah and the Pink Tiger after the holidays!