Night Zookeeper apps are a mix of creativity, technology and storytelling. How did you come up with this combination? How did you find a successful balance?
I think this is best answered by explaining where the Night Zookeeper idea came from. I was studying in Australia when the idea of a magical Night Zoo first came to me. I then completed a Masters degree in Digital Art at Norwich Art School in the UK where I undertook a module in Collaborative Practices. The idea was to find ways of using the Internet to collaborate on a creative project. I have always loved paintings and stories and I thought it would be really exciting to get others to contribute to this magical Night Zoo. So really the project was all about storytelling, creativity and technology from the start.
Do the developers have an educational background?
Yes, Paul Hutson, a co-founder in the business is a former primary school teacher. He has worked in schools across the UK and internationally. It is Paul’s passion for the story and the concept that has driven the excitement about Night Zookeeper from teachers across the world. He wanted to find ways of exciting students using a cross-curricular approach alongside exciting new technologies.
Wonky Star offers Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch for free and Night Zookeeper Teleporting Torch for $0.99. How easy or difficult is it to persuade users to pay for the content when they can access a similar version for free?
It certainly isn’t an easy task. I think it is about making the value of the paid product clear. We developed Teleporting Torch for over 6 months so it has had a huge amount of work put into it. The challenge is that, in order for people to find your apps, you have to make them easily available. That is why we have Drawing Torch available as well so that people will at least give it a go.
According to your website, you offer the app for free to schools. Will it remain that way?
Yes, we certainly try and make all our products available for schools for free. This is easy with our website and teaching resources. With apps it can be harder because of the amount of work that has to go into developing them. Hopefully schools are happy with the balance. We also make the full app free for schools for finite periods of time to support certain initiatives such as the 100 Word Challenge and Digital Leader Network. The more parents that buy the apps the more we can do for schools for free.
How do schools react to the application? Do they use it in the classroom?
Yes. NightZookeeper.com and our apps have been really popular in classrooms across the world. Last term Night Zookeeper projects were run in such different places as Fargo USA, Bradford UK, Montpellier France and Osaka Japan.Teachers bring their own creativity to the project and contribute ideas to our NightZooTeacher.com blog. If you would like to know more about the project please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Children in the U.K. seem to love this application. How is the app doing in other regions?
The app has been quite popular in Russia, South Africa, China, Canada and Australia. However our biggest market outside of the UK is the USA. It is a really hard market to break into but we are hopeful that word of mouth is spreading awareness of Night Zookeeper across the sea. We have a new app coming out later this month that we think will really spread awareness of Night Zookeeper so I will be sure to be back in touch soon!
Which new features are you planning to implement for an updated version?
We work hard with our users to refine our feature list and make sure we are delivering updates that they want. Night Zookeeper Teleporting Torch has been received amazingly well and builds on requests for improvements to Drawing Torch such as the ability to send your own missions and receive missions every day. Future updates include Night Mode and the ability to send in an Animal of the Night for a new daily contest we are launching in September.
How do you differentiate your app from the competition?
We have a unique story world which celebrates children’s creativity and our company philosophy is ‘Set Creativity Free’ so we consider the child’s own opportunity for self-expression in everything we make and do. This really helps us stand out in a market long dominated by top down communication and a casting of children as consumers rather than creators.
What do you consider to be the most difficult phase in the development and launching of an application?
Marketing. Awareness is so tough for new developers like us. We have to rely on proactive parents and teachers that love what we do, spreading the word to their peers. If I could ask one thing of anyone reading this article that likes what we are trying to do, it would be for them to share this article and our apps with their friends.