A program, app, or game’s user interface encompasses all elements that allow the user to provide input and receive feedback from the software. User interface includes elements like the code, supported input and output hardware devices, and audio and video feedback, and stands between the user and the internals of the software. Today, UI is recognized as the means to the ultimate end of creating a satisfying and pleasurable user experience through good user interface and experience design practices.
The video game industry has made significant contributions towards identification of good UX design practices. While a program or app’s utility may override the quality of user experience, you are unlikely to continue playing a video game that has a less-than-perfect user interface and design experience. This is why video game design is the most effective benchmark to assess the impact of the interface on the user experience.
Great Video Games Require Good Design
Video games have to balance usability and functionality with visual appeal for an enjoyable and entertaining user experience. All successful video games have certain common traits – a simple, elegant, and functional interface and a UX design that focuses on getting the player completely immersed into the gameplay.
Unlike computer programs and apps, a video game that is not usable is quickly rejected by gamers. Since video games are played for fun and entertainment, gamers have no incentive to adjust or accommodate poor user experience design. A game with poor usability is often criticized for being too difficult or too easy to play. The design should be easy enough for even new gamers to get used to manipulating the characters and progressing to new levels without a steep learning curve; however, the design should be difficult enough to challenge the player’s skill and abilities.
Users of computer programs tend to avoid newer releases or alternative programs that require them to get used to a host of new processes and systems. Continuity is a much-appreciated characteristic of UX design for software applications. Though, novelty is always in demand as far as video game UX design is concerned.
People love the idea of trying out something new, even if the basic script and gameplay remain the same. You are likely to be put off by a game that introduces too many radical changes in its design as well as a game with an ultra-conservative user experience design. Video game design has to balance these contradictory expectations by introducing new elements without going overboard with innovation.
From 64-bit gaming consoles to MMORPG games played over the internet, visual appeal has always played a significant role in a game’s ability to keep its players immersed for hours at a stretch. Video games offer users the element of control and uncertainty. Your ultimate gaming experience depends on your choices and decisions when playing the game. The illusion that you are in control of your progress and the emphasis on a satisfying visual experience are the reasons why you lose track of time when playing an interesting game.
The visual aspects of gaming encompass a wide range of possibilities. From the way cars turn turtle in auto racing games, to the way guns recoil in action games, gaming design offers virtually infinite opportunities for user engagement through visual appeal. Furthermore, the visuals of a game can accentuate or impair the design’s usability. Smart use of visual cues and graphics may make it easier for gamers to get used to new processes and components. On the other hand, unsatisfactory visuals introducing new components may kill the appeal of a popular game.
Case Study: World of Warcraft
Clever interface design can be a very effective tool in expanding your target audience. While WoW started out as a RTS game, its successful transformation into a MMORPG enabled it to attract people who would not describe themselves as gaming enthusiasts. WoW achieved this through a UX design that was simple enough to be understood and enjoyed by new gamers, and yet was complex enough to keep its core target audience happy.
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, the company that owns WoW, has always been a proponent of UX design that will continue to attract gamers through numerous expansions and new releases. Kotick has been vocal in interviews when discussing the importance of creating an ‘emotional connection’ between the storylines and characters in a game and the player. WoW’s user interface helps the gamer quickly understand the basic components of the game. The game offers numerous quests and other challenges that add to the sense of achievement the gamer enjoys when playing the game. The game’s visuals show the character’s progression from an ordinary participant to one who enjoys respect of other participants. All these design characteristics have ensured the game remains evergreen and attracts players from diverse backgrounds with varying interest in video games.
The success of games like WoW has encouraged companies to introduce gamification strategies that try to make work-related tasks as fun, engaging, and addictive as popular video games. These strategies focus on enabling employees to assimilate new information and knowledge without confusion or loss of enthusiasm – something that WoW has excelled at ever since its release.
Newer technologies like the Internet of Everything, virtual reality, 3D computing, and wearable technology will continue to raise the importance of UX design and boost its relevance in everyday life. In the future, user interfaces will become more intuitive, by offering numerous options for personal customization, and utilizing multiple mediums to help users adapt to innovations and changes.
Currently, users are expected to adjust and compromise their individual preferences when using a program or app that is made on the basis of a one-size-fits-all design. In the future, UX design is expected to imbibe lessons learnt from the success of games like WoW to offer a customized and personalized experience to a wide range of users.