Interesting article, though I’m rather mixed on some of the suggestions. One of the big caveats of video game UI is that it’s often designed around analogue/digital pad and button controller input, not mouse control. Often, interfaces that work on an Xbox/PS3 get called into question when they are ported over to the PC.
The second thing, I think, is that people who play video games are already willing to experiment somewhat and relearn what the iconography and menu descriptors mean between games. You never want users to have to work out what an icon means on a web page, whereas this is common in video games, and is almost part of the experience.
Thirdly, it’s interesting that the author picked the examples they did. Fallout 3 and Fable II don’t, in my mind, have good menu systems. The key reason behind this is that often the user is carrying a large quantity of items in their inventory, and you can’t scroll through several items in a list like you can do with a mouse.
Despite these points, I think there is merit in the way games organise their front-end menus, and contextual cursors (when hovering over certain objects) could work nicely if used in a way that adds clarity to interaction. The “spinning basketball for your loading graphic on a slideshow” prompted a visceral negative reaction from me, but, you know, for a certain audience it could be a fun little thing. It’s just that too many of these little touches could lead to the user being overwhelmed and confused. Conventions are there because they work and people understand them, so breaking all of them at once is obviously a bad idea, if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Computer? Hello, Computer
I got to thinking about voice recognition recently, how it’s being integrated with the Kinect and in menu navigation. The current problem we have is this:
And what Microsoft wants to do is make it like this:
But, actually, we need it to be more like this:
Even with the new advances in consumer voice technology, I’d bet that it’s still faster, and not nearly as goofy, to use a controller. It’s mainly an issue with the user having to learn specific commands and the recognition not being sophisticated enough to pick up and understand what someone might be looking for (i.e., intent). It’s the equivalent to a command line interface in vocal form, while what we really want is Google (or the computer from Star Trek).
For example, I use LOVEFiLM for streaming films to my PC. However, browsing through pages of lists of what’s come out that week and what’s been archived to find something I might be interested in is not a fun task. I want to be able to say
"[Name of machine], I want to watch a comedy film with at least a four star rating, that’s been produced in the last twenty years. Give me a list of titles, naming actors and presenting a brief synopsis.”
(Also, the name of the machine has got to be customisable. Can’t believe they haven’t done this yet. Even dogs recognise the sound of their own name.)
I want a machine that will be able to pick out those key phrases, recognise the intent of my query and my criteria and give me accurate results. Additionally, the ability to take into account previous selections and learn from previous searches – that would also be invaluable.
None of this is new. It’s what Google’s already doing. This is what we need to aim towards. It’s the difference between between navigating to a function to get to the content and navigating directly to content itself.
Someone pointed out to me this new e-mail client soon to be coming out for the Mac.
It’s interesting, because it further reinforces a trend we’ve been seeing in the way people tend to communicate with each other via messages, rather than letters.
The traditional form of e-mail used to be analogous to a paper letter format – really quite formal – even the name “e-mail” is a symbol of this. I believe that with the advent of texting over mobile phones, as shorthand lingo began to form and enter the mainstream, digital communication started down a path of informal expediency.
We now send messages to each other which are compiled into conversations. This is something that, as far as I know, Gmail were the first to implement. The point is, though, that people started using e-mail in a way not exactly intended, and it was forced to evolve. Hotmail, in response, has also adopted the conversation format, and Facebook recently made it so you can have an e-mail account with them (though the latter wasn’t regarded as successful).
And here comes Persona Mail. It takes it a step further in creating what seems to be a stripped-down e-mail client that has its locus in snappy messaging and media sharing.
Speaking of sharing; that’s one of the other things e-mail became commonly used for in the office: sending text and image attachments to one’s self, colleagues or friends. Now with Google Docs, users can upload their own files to the cloud, and they can share those files with other people. However, they’re also going a step further with the black navigation bar, Google+ and notifications. Google+ isn’t just a competing social network for Google, but a way of creating a more tightly integrated ecosystem – in particular, tighter integration between contacts and sharing messages, documents and other media.
E-mail is changing. There will always be clients (web or native) which have their base in producing formal, business-like communiques. For the consumer, though, and for most people, we are moving towards quicker, shorter, informal conversational forms of sending messages and sharing information.
Smart advice for those in UX. Some might say common sense, but what actually works for users 99% of the time trumps what theoretically shouldn’t work in principle. I also liked the “FY Threshold” as described here (too true):
The FY Threshold is an entirely unscientific model of how much hassle users will take before giving up on the site (an event often accompanied by a profane remark). Let’s say your site currently annoys 10 percent of your users so much that they give up—in other words, it pushes 10 percent of your users beyond their FY Threshold. Your job as a UX designer is of course to reduce this percentage by eliminating frustrations.
However, decisions that harm the site experience will counteract your work, pushing more users beyond their FY Thresholds. People who would otherwise tolerate the site’s issues will give up in frustration, costing you revenue. One apparently minor change can be the last straw for some users.
Google+ First Impressions
So, I recently was lucky enough to get an invite to Google+ (courtesy of @jonofanfan; big up to him). I had a quick look around, played with some of the settings, uploaded some photos, added people to “circles” and edited some personal information – pretty much the standard first-time user “getting to know you” experience.
I don’t really have a bunch to say about the UI yet – in terms of specific details – but on the whole it’s simple, clear and aesthetically pleasant to navigate. In fact, it’s almost tempting to call it basic, but that would be unfair for two reasons:
- I don’t have enough people in my network, so upcoming content is non-existent; and
- This is a beta, and there are almost certainly new features inbound.
My general conclusion is that G+ is like a stripped down version of Facebook, plus a sprinkle of Twitter, which has as its core centre a focus on “circles”, a way of splitting contacts into groupings. (Note, that Facebook does allow users to segregate people between groups, but that’s not what it wants you to do.) Oddly enough, at the heart of G+ is the ethos of having control over what you share. Privacy, not typically one of Google’s strong points, is The Big Thing here – a strategy perhaps informed by the backlash against Buzz for being an “opt-out” social network, and its general failure to attract users.
In this, it succeeds remarkably, and it also reclaims the feeling of your account being personal to you, that’s worth something – something you care about. When Facebook went open to the public, when companies started asking you to “Like” their “Page”, and when Zynga started spamming your friends’ feeds, the value of a Facebook account as something you curate and had control over diminished. In other words, the value of an account dropped. It didn’t belong to you; it belonged to the advertisers and so became meaningless. A recommendation on Facebook, consequently, doesn’t mean much anymore.
Whether G+ can escape this fate remains to be seen and is highly dependent in how brand profiles work and how they are encouraged to interact with users. If Google can find a way to offer brands an effective, innovative method of engaging users while making sure there are practice guidelines in place to protect the unique worth of personal accounts, then they will have something special. Google need to protect advertisers from themselves, in a sense.
A survey from Econsultancy of 2,000 UK consumers has revealed results surrounding trust of a site, product page engagement, basket and checkout abandonment. I recommend you read the full article linked to above, but here are some tidbits I found personally interesting.
- On trust… 46.35% of respondents would put trust in a site if they display a clear contact number and address details. Also, 48% would trust a site if it displayed trustmarks. Such simple things to add to a website, yet it’s easy to forget their effectiveness.
- On shopping basket abandonment… 54.5% would give up on purchasing products because of technical issues. In addition, 25.65% would abandon their purchase if they had to register before buying.
The former illustrates that some good QA could save a company money in the long run. Implementing additional payment options such as PayPal and Google Checkout, and allowing consumers to make one-off buys without having to register separately, could also make a difference.
- On checkout abandonment… 58.4% would be deterred from completing an order over concerns about security (while 23.15% would be deterred by additional security features such as Verified by Visa) and a massive 70.8% would be deterred by hidden charges.
So, while consumers are very concerned about payment security, they don’t like having to jump through additional security hoops; however, when it comes down to it, security appears to beat convenience. At the same time, people don’t like seeing hidden charges right at the end of the purchase funnel.
In summary, what I’m seeing as the key issues are security and transparency, and these seem to trump convenience and usability. Consumers are more worried than ever over who has their personal data, and they need reassuring. By being as honest as possible, providing answers to common queries and having a visible, knowledgeable support network in place (perhaps also using social media) it engenders trust, and that’s what keeps people buying.
While it’s a sample of one, this is nevertheless a fascinating piece of research into the usability of modern web browsers from the point of view of a person who hasn’t touched a computer.
People often ask me:
'What's the most important thing I should do if I want to make sure my Web site is easy to use?'
The answer is simple. It’s not ‘Nothing important should ever be more than two clicks away,’ or ‘Speak the user’s language,’ or even ‘Be consistent.’ It’s…
'Don't make me think!'