I don’t often go to tech events that aren’t aimed primarily at women, but this Real UX meetup had a good vibe. This event was about User Experience in the games industry, and we heard from two impressive speakers.
The talks were very genuine and down-to-earth, and I couldn’t detect a big ego anywhere. It was really interesting to hear about two industries – gaming and gambling – that are very much linked, in the context of User Experience.
Definition of User Experience
If you don’t know what User Experience (UX) is, NN Group defines it as:
“All aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
It involves the merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.
Image: Fabio from Mikleo talking about UX in game design
User Experience in gaming
First, there was a really interesting talk from UX designer Fabio Basile of Mikleo and Musixmatch. He was the only designer on the League of Legends team, which is an online multiplayer game owned by Riot Games. He told us about his experience in designing one of the world’s most popular games.
Fabio says, “Riot Games knew their players were reluctant to part with more information. We had to enable players to set up a messaging account without providing more personal details.”
Of course, first and foremost, you need to think who you’re designing for and why.
League of Legends is an incredibly competitive game, and sometimes brings out the very worst behaviour in its players. Abusive behaviour is a huge problem for the network, so understanding player psychology and using it to conduct user priming is a key part of the UX development.
“Showing error messages in blue rather than white is much more calming,” says Fabio. “Of course, we always have to stay in line with the fantasy colour scheme of the game.”
Using machine learning
Machine learning technology can actually help to classify user behaviour as negative, and be used to ban aggressive players from using the in-game chat messenger for a certain amount of time.
Incredibly, this has even resulted in the previously badly-behaved players reporting other aggressive players to the administrators.
It’s important to ensure that you regularly and reliably gain user feedback from your customers or audience.
As a UX designer, Fabio wasn’t directly involved in the user testing. Riot Games wanted to ensure they don’t compromise the testing environment with the presence of staff members who might introduce bias.
Image: The audience at UX in the games industry
Letting go of your designs
Fabio says, “As a designer, it can be hard to separate yourself from your creations, but it’s important to let them go.”
Of course, not everyone is always happy with your creation, and sometimes user feedback will result in a design that doesn’t look pleasing – but it works.
“Optimise for the majority and allow for the minority,” says Fabio. “And use your app every day, no matter how sick you are of your creation.”
There’s a lot that UX in other industries can learn from gaming, in how to create immersive, multi-platform, social experiences.
Image: Jade from Degree 53 talking about UX in gambling
User experience in gambling
Jade Sahota is Head of Design at digital agency Degree 53. They specialise in services for the gambling industry.
“The gambling industry has huge potential for change and innovation,” says Jade. “There’s a clear lack of venturing outside the norm.”
If you take a look at any gambling website, you’ll find they all follow the same format. Crowded, colourful and chaotic would be one way to describe most of them.
“Busy sites are catered to experienced gamblers,” says Jade. “This is a problem for new users.” One reason sites all look the same is because typical customers are not loyal to any particular brand. They tend move round the different betting sites looking for the best deal, so it’s important that these sites have familiarity.
Jade aims to appeal to a newer breed of gambler, who expects a clean user experience when they want to place a bet online. These are digital natives, who will leave a website if it proves too difficult to use.
Image: Me looking windswept and sweaty at UX in the games industry
Challenges in gambling UX
But there are limitations to what can be done.
“Designers also have to overcome UX challenges,” says Jade. The gambling industry is heavily regulated and all UX design must be up to code. From the very beginning of the design process, it must be factored in that there should be a clock visible in the interface at all times, for example. This is to prevent players from losing track of how much time they’ve spent in the app.
“Gambling is one of the oldest industries, but companies are releasing new products every day. Designs need to reflect that,” says Jade.
It’s important to make the User Interfaces cleaner and easy to use, but not to stray too far from the norm.
Jade concludes, “The future of the gambling industry is gamification. One day, everyone else will be trying to catch up with the level of UX we see in gambling.”
Image: Networking and chatting over drinks and pizza at UX in the games industry
There was free pizza and sushi, along with a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. That was handy, because it was one of the hottest days of the year in Manchester, and I was covered in sweat for the entire time.
This was a great event from Real UX MCR, who host meetups for anyone interested in UX. UX is an exciting area of tech, digital and design, and one that lots of people will benefit from learning about. Check them out.
Valtech is also hosting an upcoming event with Manchester Digital called #homelesshack on 30 June – 1 July, which aims to tackle the problem of homelessness in the North West. I’ll be going.
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