Keep It Simple: Beano’s Top Tips for Building Alexa Kid Skills

Billie Heath Aug 23, 2018
Kid Skills

Beano, the brand behind Britain’s longest-running children’s comic, prides itself on being “in the know” when it comes to kids. The brand wants to connect with children in the most natural way possible, which is exactly why they turned to Alexa.

“If we want to be the place where kids go for their content, then voice has to be part of the experience,” says Finbar Sheahan, lead developer on Beano’s Alexa skill.

"Beano knows exactly what’s cool in the playground and what's not.” Beano set out to build a skill that would entertain and challenge kids aged 6-12.

“Our team regularly talks to our panel of kids to get a feel for what they want,” Sheahan explains. “They found kids talking about Alexa and voice technology all the time. We realised we had an opportunity to use Alexa to help kids engage with our content in totally new and exciting ways.”

Designing a Simple Skill to Entertain Kids

The Beano kid skill can do two things: tell jokes and play true or false. The Beano team understood the importance of keeping it simple when it comes to Alexa.

“We knew that designing for voice would be very different to what we’d done before, and we wanted to entertain kids in a way that was simple, yet powerful.” Sheahan explains.

They knew from engagement with the Beano mobile app that kids engage most deeply with their quizzes, and jokes are a staple content type for the brand. Beano’s comic team is based in Dundee and had banks of jokes the skill-building team could use. They were even able to tell them which jokes are most popular with kids.

Standing Out in the Alexa Skills Store

The Beano team realised that there were already a lot of awesome skills in the games category and that they would have to create something unique to keep users coming back. So they started by trying lots of other skills out first to put themselves in the user’s shoes and figure out what felt most natural. They realised that high-quality audio made a huge difference.

“We decided to use voice actors from our Dennis and Gnasher Unleashed cartoon show and we got members of our own Beano team to record the jokes themselves, along with the non-dynamic content for the true or false quiz,” says Sheahan. “These audio elements give our skill an authentic style and an edge over other kids' brands.”

When they heard that Alexa kid skills were launching in the UK, Beano were keen to be one of the first brands live on the UK Alexa Skills Store.

“We took two weeks to come up with the product and the content and to build it,” Sheahan recalls. “We were surprised at how easy it was to create something we were really proud of.”

The team learned a lot in that process and built a skill that both customers love. The skill has an average 5-star rating and glowing reviews. Reviewers were particularly keen to stress that parents have been enjoying the skill as much as their kids, with one customer calling it a “lovely skill for my children and all of us grown up Beano fans.”

Beano’s Top Tips for Building Stellar Kid Skills

The Beano team has immersed itself in the world of UK kids to understand what they’re looking for when it comes to voice experiences. Beano started from the knowledge they gained here and created for the following framework for building stellar kid skills:

  • Focus on relevant content. They used the writers on their content team to tailor the true or false questions to what’s popular with children, like fidget spinners and YouTubers.
  • Add fresh content. Variety is what keeps customers coming back to your skill. Beano recorded 80 different jokes for the skill launch and are ready to add hundreds more as time goes on.
  • Challenge the audience. Beano’s skill got its first review within hours of being published. This 5-star review praised the skill for having “great jokes and tricky true or falses!”
  • Above all, keep it simple. “Kids like the challenge of short games,” Sheahan says. “We kept the content short and snappy, but we have left our options open to expand it.”

The Future of Voice

Sheahan is excited about Alexa’s future and Beano’s place in it. He’s already making big plans for where their skill could go long term.

“As a developer, what I’m really excited about is that voice tech is in its infancy now. The technology is incredible and there’s so much yet to come,” says Sheahan. “We can’t wait to see how this technology grows, and to experiment with ways it can drive deeper engagement with Beano Fans.”

More Resources for Building Stellar Kid Skills