From the now ultra-retro SEGA Mega Drive to the highly evolved games consoles we play today, gaming was very much at the centre of my generation’s childhoods. Many nights I can recall lugging my PlayStation down to my grandparent's house, commandeering their TV and slumping myself under the glow of the it. Gaming is a great escape and for many, myself included, has become a much-loved pastime.
Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed games evolve and become much more enhanced; not only graphically but immersing the gamer in the overall experience.
Successful video games have certain commonalities; a simple and engaging world that focuses on getting the player completely immersed into the gameplay and intuitive puzzles and problem-solving.
Such lessons are relevant to the field of user experience design for the web.
Hearing our users’ voices
Unfortunately, within the confines of digital marketing we are often limited to the feedback we receive on our websites, having to read in to Analytics and data rather than gleaning real audience feedback. Our website users aren’t as vocal as the gaming community and are limited to the ways they can communicate and provide vital feedback on how well a website is working for them. So, how do you overcome this conundrum? We test, test and test again!
Before games hit the shelves, they have been exhaustively tested and the most successful ones have been trialed by real-life games lovers and players. There is nothing more frustrating than purchasing a glossy looking, high-definition game that is littered with bugs and becomes, in essence, unplayable. The frustration this breeds is the same you witness on poorly tested and functioning websites.
There are many methods to conduct usability testing for the web. Applying Nielsen’s heuristics evaluation, for example, can allow you to create simple user scenarios and tests, which provide valuable, unbiased insights that can be, in turn, interpreted into qualitative data to enhance the user experience.
Meeting your players’ expectations
Gamers over time have come to accept certain features are automatically ingrained into the design of a game. They will be aware that (thankfully) auto-save occurs while completing stages of a game, and there is no need to hunt for an elusive checkpoint before failing to complete a level (I’m talking about you Resident Evil 2). Also, while waiting for a multiplayer match to start, the interface will display a countdown clock as to when the match will begin, providing clear cues on status.
These traits have slowly begun to emerge into the way a website will interact with its users too;
- Google Chrome gives the user the opportunity for the browser to remember their log-in details for the next time they visit the same website(s).
- The use of breadcrumbs on a website indicates to a user where they are within the confines of a website.
- Processing payment idle screens provide information as to why there is a delay and encourage patience.
These traits have become familiar to the user. Their exposure to simple but effective design features have made the user journey more effective, clearly showing an understanding of their needs and how they can achieve them.
Establishing the user’s expectations of a website and how easy (or not) it is for them to achieve their goals, bridges the divide between the designer’s mindset and the end user’s experience. Target audience feedback can allow for all-important changes to be implemented that improve the end product and ultimately decipher its success.