The gaming industry has come a long way since Pong and Pac-Man represented the pinnacle of interactive technology. As games and apps become more complicated, the onus is on developers, making them simpler and easier for users to pick-up-and-play. The marketplace is filled with clones and near like-for-like experiences. A clunky interface can be as much of a franchise killer as any game-breaking bug or ill-timed PR move.
Ease of Use
User Experience (UX) design has become part of the science and magic of games, the glue that melds player enjoyment with developer creativity. The casino industry, in particular, provides a useful case study for UX design. Emphasizing on always-accessible and instantly-playable content, iGaming companies like NetEnt have to remove obstacles from one of the shortest player journeys in entertainment. Slot games, for instance, sometimes last only a few seconds.
Finding that objectively good player experience is becoming more difficult, though. To that end, NetEnt recently unveiled an update to the interface of its Live Roulette product. As this product is featured at many top online casinos like Genesis, NetEnt needs to keep its product competitive. The patch aimed to “capitalize on the rapid shift to mobile” and emphasized the need for UX designers to focus on developing for all screen sizes and orientations. It’s an issue that bothers web developers too. Ease of use is the most important characteristic of 75% of website users, according to Hubspot.
While, in the above case, it might be tempting to only code for a select audience, players put off by a bad UX do not come back.
One of the major themes in experience design is, inevitably, customer feedback – including the recording of emotions, eye-tracking, and even biometric readings. However, there can be a disconnect between what feelings the player tries to convey and what the UX developer understands. A feeling of frustration may only be present in somebody who is not used to being challenged, for instance, a point that could immediately affect gameplay in titles designed around fiendish difficulty scaling.
Objectively good UX design does, therefore, vary per product and industry. In casino titles, the experience is rarely designed to be anything but simple and plug-and-play, while flight sims and RPGs may have no qualms at all about filling the players’ interface with dials and numbers. Early access and beta tests can provide an insight into players’ experience with a product but, again, there’s a risk that an early negative encounter will scare users off.
Whatever designers decide to do, user polling has become an increasingly popular way to collect useful data from players. Goal-orientated, neutral questioning can gauge users’ understanding (or not) of a product. However, elements like loaded questions – “why is our game better than theirs?” – can have a detrimental effect on player research, though, by returning only the information that you want to hear. Try to get users to say what they feel.
Whether it’s an app, game, or website you’re creating, everybody in the team should have an understanding of good UX design. Having to undo poor early decision-making during beta testing can be both an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.