Meet the Common Sense Media app: A trusted family tool for today’s complicated media

by: | Nov 29, 2023

There are more amazing entertainment options available than ever before. Dozens of streaming services, hundreds of millions of apps and games, and books of all kinds. With so many choices, it can be overwhelming to find the right content for the moment. And for parents, it’s even more complicated to find content that is appropriate for their family.

Since 2003, Common Sense Media has helped millions of families navigate the rapidly changing and growing ecosystem of movies, TV shows, games, and books – offering trusted expert and user reviews while helping parents understand the nature of sensitive content in each title.

“ArcTouch’s commitment to building accessible software aligns perfectly with our values.”

We’re excited to introduce our latest client work, the Common Sense Media app for iOS and Android.

Streamlining the web experience for mobile

One of the biggest challenges of this project was taking the beloved and trusted web experience for Common Sense Media and streamlining it for a mobile experience.

When translating web patterns to mobile, we carefully consider how users interact with a website and adapt those patterns to the mobile app, considering the smaller screen size and different user behaviors on mobile devices. We also consider the limitations of mobile devices, such as slower Internet connections and limited processing power.

During our design sessions with Common Sense Media, we identified the North Star for the app — clearly and easily provide parents with all the information they need to determine if content is appropriate for their children. This North Star guided us to define these features for a Minumum Lovable Product:

  • Trusted media reviews from the Common Sense Media editorial team, complete with quality and age ratings.
  • Personalized family recommendations based on children’s and parents’ interests and preferences.
  • Crowdsourced community reviews from other parents and children.
  • Intuitive search to quickly find and discover new content.

And, importantly, we wanted to design a simple, fast onboarding experience. We wanted to make it easy for those subscribers who are already familiar with their web experience to create a new account and subscribe or sign into existing accounts.

family profile in the Common Sense Media app

Speaking of subscriptions, the Common Sense Media app provides a premium experience for subscribers – including unlimited access and reviews. For new users, the app offers a great “free” experience — which includes viewing up to 3 reviews in 30 days.

Cross-platform Flutter development

Our development team members are big fans of Flutter for cross-platform development, especially as the language and its ecosystem have matured.

By building the project with Flutter, we were able to share much of the code across both iOS and Android — which accelerated development times and also reduces the effort for maintenance required across both platforms over the lifetime of the app.

We built the subscription model using Flutter. For iOS, our Flutter developers used a subscription plug-in from the community and integrated it with Common Sense Media’s back end. For Android, we created a native subscription path.

Designed for accessibility

Making apps and websites more inclusive is a core value for ArcTouch, which we articulate in our accessibility-first approach.

Fortunately, this aligned perfectly with Common Sense Media’s values, as the company committed to supporting us in building an accessible app from Day 1 of the project.

From choosing color schemes and enabling font scaling to ensuring compatibility with screen readers and voice assistants, our team carefully followed accessible app design and development best practices at every step. We also used Fable to conduct usability tests from assistive technology users and worked with Allyant, which performed an independent audit of the finished product to ensure accessibility.

Our accessibility work included:

  • Cross-platform accessibility — We confirmed basic Flutter components were compliant with accessibility requirements and, when they were not, iterated upon them.
  • Accessibility blueprints — We documented the design system into atomic components with detailed instructions for voice-over, font scaling, and handling edge cases. These documents served as a reference guide for our development team and helped ensure consistency and accessibility throughout the app.
  • Accessibility testing — We followed best practices for testing accessibility features.

“ArcTouch’s commitment to building accessible software aligns perfectly with our values,” said Ellen Pack, president of Common Sense Media. “They’ve been a tremendous partner and created an app that provides an inclusive and enjoyable experience for everyone.”

Other features we’re proud of

Some of the work the team is particularly proud of includes:

  • CMS-powered content reviews and recommendations: Content for the app can be defined and updated at any time via a separate custom CMS.
  • OneTrust integration: We integrated OneTrust with the application to manage user privacy and data. Among its features, OneTrust can distinguish between minors and adults, allowing for certain kinds of marketing for adults but preventing tracking of user data for minors.
  • Test automation: Test automation allows us to instantly re-test aspects of an app with each release. The automation saves hours of QA testing with every update — an important feature to help manage an app over its lifetime.

Try it for free!

Our team is excited to use the Common Sense Media app to discover our next binge-worthy dramas or comedies on Netflix, Max, Disney+, and Hulu! And now you can too. Download the app for iOS or Android today!


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