How we test the apps
Every app submitted to the Guide, is firstly tested by the important people – children. While the children play, they are observed by professionals who have been trained to carry out research with children in a robust, and ethically responsible way.
The apps are then put through their paces by our team of experts to ensure they meet our strict criteria in three main areas – Fun, Ease of Use and Skills Developed.
Each product is given a maximum of five stars in each of the three areas, and only those scoring nine or more stars in total are added to the Guide. This stringent process enables us to confidently list and promote toys included in our Guide and provide a trustworthy service to help parents to sort through the sea of apps available on digital stores to download apps which will really hit the spot.
The criteria for achieving a ‘fun’ rating is:
This is awarded to the real favourites. Children engaged well with the app and are keen to continue playing regularly after the initial testing.
This is awarded to apps that are more fun than most. At least some of our child testers will have remained keen to play this app regularly over at least a week with all testers in the core age range enjoying playing the app beyond a brief initial play session, engaging with the app for 5+ minutes on multiple play sessions and expressing enjoyment in playing the app.
Most apps receive a 3 star fun rating unless they qualify to be upgraded or downgraded based on the statements for the other fun ratings. A 3 star rating indicates that most of the children enjoyed playing with the app and some for prolonged periods
If some children in the core target age range were only keen to play the app briefly and this app did not become a favourite for any of the children, or if the app stopped being played by most children within a day or so then the app will be awarded a 2 star fun rating.
If all children who played the app got bored quickly and were reluctant to play it more than once it will be awarded a 1 star rating.
The criteria for achieving a ‘Ease of Use’ rating is:
Apps are tested on their ease of use (sometimes referred to as usability or user experience rating), with the following criteria:
This is only awarded for apps for which we find no ease of use problems what so ever. Children can work out how to play the app (and difficulties are intended challenges of the app) and the app can be navigated easily. No features are missed or misunderstood, the app is considered very intuitive and there are no aspects (such as in-app purchasing, the lack of a parent gate, third party adverts) that adversely affect the user experience.
This is awarded to apps that are more easy to use than most where there are 1 to 3 identified minor ease of use issues such as: a minor issue initially in understanding how to play, a minor navigation issues, a non-critical feature that is missed or misunderstood, or one of the following adversely affects user experience to a minor extent – third party adverts, in-app purchasing, no parent gate.
Most apps receive a 3 star ease of use rating unless they qualify to be upgraded or downgraded based on the statements for the other skills development ratings, such as if 6 or more minor ease of use issues or any major ease of use issues are identified.
If one or more ease of use issues are identified that represent a significant barrier in playing the game but that are overcome before most children give up playing the then the app will be awarded a 2 star ease of use rating. The app may also be awarded 2 star for ease of use if there are high number of more minor issues or if there are one or more unrestricted links to paid content (whether they are for upgrading to a full version, in-app purchases, adverts or more apps from the same provider).
If more than one child tester of the target age failed to understand how to play the app without significant third party help (for apps appropriate for use by an unaccompanied child), any core features were never found, or where there are multiple significant issues that affect user experience and would either discourage a child to play the game or a parent to want their child to play the game (such as regular unrestricted adverts or in-app purchases) then a 1 star ease of use rating will be awarded.
The criteria for achieving a ‘Skills Developed’ rating is:
Apps are tested on their Skill Development with the following criteria:
Apps that actively help children to develop skills across 3 or more skill development areas (e.g. cognitive, creative and language skills) or are truly exceptional at helping to develop a fewer number of core skills such as literacy and numeracy across a wide range of abilities (e.g. an app that very clearly supports children from pre-reading through to reading full books) are given 5 stars for skills development. A 5 star rating is hard to achieve and only available for apps that we consider exceptionally good for learning and development.
Apps that help children to develop skills across 2 skill development areas successfully or are particularly supportive in one area that is a key target within Early Years Foundation Stage or Key Stage tracking (depending on the age range). We are confident that parents and teachers/childcare professionals would consider this to be an ‘educational app’.
Most apps receive a 3 star skills development rating unless they qualify to be upgraded or downgraded based on the statements for the other skills development ratings. A three star rating for skill development indicates that an app has substantial benefit to children’s development in at least one area.
Apps with a 2 star skills development rating do have some potential to develop skills but they are primarily fun. The skills they develop are typically less core or may be skills children have already mastered so test and refine skills rather than developing them or require an adult to use the app in a way not obviously intended to use this as a developmental tool. We suspect most parents and teachers/childcare professionals would not perceive this to be an ‘educational’ app.
Apps with a 1 star skills development rating are clearly focused on being fun games rather than educational. They may require some skills to be used but these are typically ones a child has already mastered (e.g. you need to colour in but it doesn’t stretch art & design skills or you need to use fine motor skills already developed) and certainly not core skills for EYFS/National Curriculum. We are confident that parents and teachers/childcare professionals would not perceive this as an educational app.