When Aaron Williams needed to find a way to bond with his two young daughters, he knew he'd have to play to their strengths.
Williams, a computer programmer, had to bridge a generational gap — his daughters Anna and Ava are 8 and 6 years old, respectively — with something his entire family could enjoy. In the end, he settled on something that let his girls showcase their love for fashion and drawing.
The computer programmer became an application designer, and his daughters were the lead concept artists.
"The girls and I had found a lot of fun dress-up apps for the iPad but we often ran into the problem that the controls were a little too complicated for my youngest, Ava," Williams said. "We wanted to make something that would require no instructions, since she couldn't read at the time, and very little fine motor control."
The trio created two free and easy-to-use applications — Mixup Dressup and Animal Alphabet. The applications, which are available for download via Apple's App Store, use simple swipe mechanics, primarily so the younger Ava can play with her own creations.
Both apps feature Anna and Ava's voices. Animal Alphabet has both girls reading the sounds of letters out loud to help facilitate learning. Mixup Dressup plays a sound clip every time a new outfit is created. Usually the clip is of one of the girls complimenting a fashion choice.
"Once we showed people the app the first response was always, 'Can I add my own voice as well?' " Williams said. "So we added the ability to record your own phrases and comments, which ended up taking much longer than the rest of the app combined. But I think it was worth it because it becomes an activity in itself."
Mixup Dressup is a particular hit on the app store with dozens of downloads and a 5-star review score after 12 reviews. Mixup Dressup is a game that allows for more than 3,000 fashion combinations, all of which were drawn by Anna and Ava.
"I think drawing the clothes was my favorite part," Ava said. "We had a lot of fun."
Putting the applications together took a couple of months, but when asked if they'd like to keep creating apps with their dad, both daughters emphatically answered yes. The girls still play with Mixup Dressup and have several additional voice tracks recorded to go along with the pre-recorded ones that come with the app.
"Definitely," Anna said when asked if she'll keep working on apps.
While doing a quick demonstration of the application Ava said she discovered an outfit combination she hadn't created before.
"There's all these different outfits and you can mix and match them — it's pretty easy," she said while looking for new combinations. Both Anna and Ava have access to iPads while they're at home.
Williams said he and his daughters are developing another version of Mixup Dressup, as well as a new app that will be more challenging to use. He said as his daughters get older he's going to have to figure out new ways to challenge them with the apps and that easy swipe games won't suffice for much longer.