I’ve recently consulted a team who were having issues with their game. It had gorgeous music, stellar graphics and lots of experienced people working on it – a well made, quality product. Despite all the hard work, many players were abandoning the game only after 10 minutes. The team spent months trying to figure out a solution and have finally reached out for outside help.
While talking to stakeholders and department leads, I asked about how they gathered feedback and made decisions. Turns out their System and Gameplay Designers were the ones creating and conducting tests, Artists working on the game also did the UI and the whole team interpreted feedback together in large discussion groups.
I asked “Why do you have a dedicated person for Characters and for Gameplay, but decide to ignore UI?” They were quick to reassure me “Our artists can draw the graphics and our Gameplay designers already know what they want the interface to be. We don’t need a full-time UI Designer – they’d be left with nothing to do. We can always hire one at the end when we need to polish things up.”
This is a very common scenario with sadly predictable outcomes. Clearly there was a misunderstanding of the role a UI/UX Designer can play in making a good product shine. I wanted to help the team understand how their decisions lead to the current problem and how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Here’s what a UI/UX Designer can bring to your project and team:
A BRIDGE BETWEEN HOW IT LOOKS AND HOW IT WORKS
There will be many times in a project when you have to make hard decisions and sacrifice either ease of use or visual appeal. It’s challenging to make the right decisions when both your artists and designers start trying to defend their work. Since they are all specialists in a narrow field, it’s hard for them to see the nature of the problem. Is it caused by some feature or are the graphics making it hard to understand the intent?
UI/UX Designers are not only experts in their field but have a good understanding of how other disciplines feed in to it. They don’t just have opinions, they can tell you the “why” and “how” of the solution. That is what makes them good decision makers when it comes to solving problems. Their separation from the finer details of the project makes them less biased towards Design, Tech and Art. Having no emotional attachment to any one side makes their solutions less biased and gives your team someone who can be a neutral party in a discussion.
A UNIQUE SKILL SET NO ONE ELSE HAS
While your team might consist of experts, few of them will have knowledge of Psychology. Common Sense may seem like it’s obvious and anyone can make sure the design follows it. However, you’ll soon find out that different people have different opinions about what is common, usual, hard to learn and predictable. Without special training, it will also be hard for team members to keep their own biases out of the discussion. Any artist can draw a pretty button or window frame, but only a UI Designer with UX knowledge can make sure it is both pretty and easy to use.
UI/UX Designers will rarely say that a solution is right just because they feel like it is. Knowing why certain solution are better than others and being able to explain their logic to others is an essential part of this role. Knowledge in Psychology, User Behavior and Human Nature is required. It helps to predict the outcome of a solution and communicate that to team. This makes the UI Designer acts as a producer who helps everyone work together towards a common goal and stay true to the original vision.
A USABILITY MASTER AND ADVOCATE
Your team will work towards delivering the ideal product. The artist will focus on creating his best art, the designer will add cool ideas that are fun to explore. Often times none of them will think of the end user when adding a feature or creating visuals. It’s a pitfall any specialist can fall in to. Losing track of what is important to the project and what the intended audience really needs; choosing instead to be a bit self-centered and create something that sounds fun or is trendy.
A UI Designer or UX Specialist are here to help you create the experience you target audience cares about. To help your team test their new ideas against the common goal. To gently guide teammates back when they stray too far off the path. Having someone on the team who always has the end user in mind will save you money. The usability principles can be applied to many fields and all your team will benefit from a person who can help make the features more accessible.
A USER FEEDBACK EXPERT
Many teams test their game with players and pay for review sessions. Few have the knowledge necessary to take full advantage of the data they receive and often implement the feedback directly in to the game without question. It’s very easy to misinterpret the results and only pay attention to the outcomes that confirm team expectations. This can lead to a frustrating cycle where users blame a feature for causing trouble, but still complain if the feature is removed. It creates a problem that seems to have no right answer.
A person with UX knowledge can help you avoid pitfalls in setting up testing. There are many best practices from Experimental Psychology they can bring to the team. They will ensure that you’re gathering the right kind of feedback, implementing the correct results and investing in the right kind of tests. This also ensures there’s a person in charge of testing early and regularly, before things go too far ahead and the solution is too costly to implement.
UI and UX are roles that can greatly benefit your project in many ways. They are one of the more versatile on the team. So even if you’re short on resources, consider consulting with these specialists. They cover a range of knowledge that is not common, but is essential in delivering a successful product.