The 5 UX Lessons You Must Learn from Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go has sparked a mobile gaming app revolution that is taking the world by storm. People everywhere are walking around cities with their heads down, not due to shame, but because they’re absolutely engulfed in Pokemon Go’s UX. The app has been so influential that Yelp, for example, has responded by allowing the public to filter Yelp searches according to pokéstops. To top if off, a full-on stampede even broke out in Central Park after a rare Vaporeon was spotted.

While the release of Pokemon Go has been astonishingly successful to the point of becoming the highest-grossing mobile app in the USA, the product hasn’t arrived without its flaws. As more and more users are downloading and playing this addictive game, some user experience flaws have come out of the woodwork. Being that UX is our forte, we couldn’t resist dissecting the aspects of Pokemon Go’s UX. While these “pitfalls” aren’t going to stop players from catching Charmanders and Bulbasaurs, they provide compelling examples of how even top games can improve their UX.

UX Lesson #1. App Crashes and Bugs Will Harm Your Product’s Rating And Reviews

Pokemon Go should ideally be one of the highest-rated mobile apps in the mobile marketplace. However, the app is ironically sitting at a three star rating. This average rating is almost entirely a result of Pokemon Go’s propensity to crash at the worst of times. While users are in the middle of flicking Pokeballs at Pokemon in order to capture them!

Image Source: Giphy.com

Pokemon Go’s flood of crashes and freezes are causing users to leave emotionally-charged negative reviews, even while admitting that the game should be a five-star product. Pokemon Go has made it clear that people will leave the harshest of user reviews and ratings if your product is prone to crashing. Unfortunately, users are also willing to abandon mobile apps as a result of technical flaws, so this is the worst-case scenario that all mobile app teams should watch out for.

Complaints about Pokemon Go’s crashes and freezes have become the norm on their App Store listing. Image Source: itunes.apple.com/us/app/pokemon-go/

Standard crash monitoring tools require developers to dig through extensive amounts of code and attempt to recreate the crash. In terms of efficiency and accuracy, this simply will not suffice, especially if an app has an extremely large user base like the one Pokemon Go has. One ultimately needs to boost their crash tracking and fixing in order to quickly and successfully resolve crashes, and prevent similar crashes from happening in the future. The only way to do this is with a tool that actually shows you how crashes occur.

The best solution to fight app crashes is to continuously monitor them in a way that actually allows you to see how the crash occurred. Many mobile teams have begun using the qualitative tool of user session recordings which provides them with a valuable means of watching the exact sequence of events that lead up to a user’s crashed session. For example, in the case of Pokemon Go, user session recordings would enable developers to watch exactly what actions and settings contribute to a Pokeball freezing in mid-air and crashing the app. By monitoring crashes from the real-life perspective of your users in this way allows you to get to the source of your product’s issues, stop angry reviews and ratings, and preserve your UX for the future.

UX Lesson #2. Users Want In-Depth Personalization and Customization

Pokemon Go’s player customization screen.

If you’ve created products for mobile app users for long enough and/or have done your thorough homework, then you probably realize that most of today’s users can often be selective and pretty complicated. But, this harsh reality seems to have potentially slipped past Pokemon Go during its ideation phase. For a game that largely feels futuristic, it’s odd that users can’t change their trainer’s hairstyle, add glasses, or wear modern-day accessories.

These fine details might sound petty, but the smallest of details make a lasting impression when it comes to a product’s UX. Currently users of Pokemon Go can assign their trainer a name, choose a realistic skin tone, and select from a few variations of clothing. But, Pokemon Go’s customization process still doesn’t give users nearly enough freedom to build a character that they can tell their friends about. As a role playing game, Pokemon Go should consider enabling players to choose from at least 50–100+ character customizations, submit in-game feedback, and enjoy some form of gameplay for when they can’t roam outdoors for whatever reason.

UX Lesson #3. More Social Interaction is a Must

Pokemon Go provides users with the opportunity to join Team Instinct, Team Mystic, or Team Valor, but users want far more player-to-player interaction than the app’s current approach provides. Image: Polygon.com

Interactive gameplay is a big part of what makes quality mobile gaming apps so habit-forming. And, while Pokemon Go has created a unique three-team environment that gives users some of the interaction they crave, there’s still a lot that’s missing in comparison to other chart-topping mobile games like Mobile Strike and Game of War. These top-rated mobile games have grown rapidly in popularity largely because they encourage players to develop real-life relationships with one another through team-building activities and open in-app communication. User conversations are even auto-translated in these games to allow for seamless international gameplay.

Top mobile games like Mobile Strike have capitalized on users’ natural desire to build relationships with one another, while Pokemon Go has yet to implement these functionalities to the fullest extent possible. Image: MMOS.com

When you compare Pokemon Go’s level of social interaction to similarly popular games, it becomes clear that the majority of Pokemon Go’s interactivity is still lacking. For example, Pokemon Go’s users are demanding a trading system that allows players to exchange similarly-ranked Pokemon. Plenty of users also want to battle against their friends in-game, and leverage in-app messaging or social networking capabilities to find out when their friends are available to play.

People everywhere are playing Pokemon Go, but the game doesn’t offer enough of an interactive environment to meet app users’ fiery demands. Image: stockmarketnewsworld.com

These big user demands reflect how valuable it is for users to be able to involve their real-life tribe in a digital product. People are simply social, and want easy, instantaneous communication options inside of mobile apps. This should come as excellent news to mobile app teams that want to leverage social interaction and viral marketing in their product. Because, when you have an amazing product, users’ natural desire to socialize can actually help to sell your app’s UX for you.

UX Lesson #4. User Onboarding Should Set Users on a Path Towards Success

Despite the fact that Pokemon Go leverages Augmented Reality, it unfortunately sports an onboarding process that leaves users feeling unsure of what exactly to do next. While the storyline that Professor Willow delivers during onboarding is fun and nostalgic, the character doesn’t provide actionable tips for locating Pokemon, using the Pokemon tracking bar, getting items, or acquiring in-game bonuses. One usability blog has summarized Pokemon Go’s usability and onboarding issues quite succinctly with the following message:

“The game’s most prevalent and painful usability issue is that beyond showing the player that they need to swipe a pokéball to catch a pokémon, and can only interact with a gym once they’re level 5, Pokémon Go does not spend the effort to teach players the game. Which is surprising, because there isn’t too much to the game.”

Pokemon Go will ultimately benefit from leveraging a more thorough progressive onboarding tutorial, which provides new users with a complete understanding of how the app works as they actually use it. Instructing users to start walking around outdoors, for example, can go a long way in helping users get acquainted with Pokemon Go’s unique UX. Or, Pokemon Go could include a progress bar similar to the one that Facebook uses, which may motivate more new users to reach level 5 and gain the ability to interact with gyms. Because, if Pokemon Go can cover at least a few more of the app’s most basic functions and benefits, users will feel much more confident about using the app. This small onboarding tweak will set Pokemon Go’s new users on clear path towards success, while also building a foundation that leaves a lasting and positive first impression on long-term players of the game.

Using a character during onboarding can help to form immediate relationships with users, but Pokemon Go’s onboarding process still leaves users feeling unsure of themselves. Image: Gamasutra.com

UX Lesson #5. Remain Transparent with Your In-App Permissions

You probably have heard about the drama that emerged on Pokemon Go’s launch day due to the fact that the game’s in-app permission appeared to be highly-invasive. However, the “problem” was fixed shortly thereafter, and it was revealed that Pokemon Go’s requests to obtain full control over users’ Google Accounts was just a cosmetic flaw that didn’t jeopardize user privacy at all.

But, Pokemon Go’s launch has still provided a great lesson for all to learn from. Because, all of the false drama has made it easy to understand the potentially devastating ripple effect that a poorly-implemented social login screen can have on the entire future of your brand.

For example, it’s generally assumed that your launch day success plays a big role in the App Store’s algorithm for ranking your app. And, if users hesitate to download your app because of a simple cosmetic flaw which scares them away (due to privacy concerns in the digital age), then you could risk the future of your app because of a silly UX mistake. Or, if users do decide to install your product after feeling unsure about the safety of your app’s permissions, they could permanently lose trust in your brand, and maintain a skeptical attitude regarding your product’s UX. Pokemon Go’s launch has sparked even more conversation about the future of in-app permissions, and how important they can be for reflecting your app’s level of trust and transparency.

Pokemon Go is extremely fortunate that this problem was resolved fairly quickly, and that their release was too popular to ignore because of a simple cosmetic flaw. Less popular products certainly wouldn’t have been as fortunate as Pokemon Go under similar circumstances. So, to ensure that nothing like this ever happens to your team, keep in mind that it’s always worth inspecting the in-app permissions that your app requests on a regular basis. It’s important to consider your app’s permission requests to be a vital part of your brand’s UX, because of the high-information and privacy-oriented times that we live in.

Pokemon Go originally requested “full access” to users’ Google accounts upon release, although this turned out to be a non-issue, and a major lesson to be learned from. Image: Slate.com

Conclusion

Overall, Pokemon Go has released a phenomenal product, but their usability, security, and UX could use some optimization. And, while it’s good practice to release a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in order to get your product in front of users as soon as possible, Pokemon Go has redefined the meaning of “Minimum” by launching an excellent mobile game with a bare bones UX.

The team behind Pokemon Go still has to personalize their product, eliminate crashes, make it more sociable, improve user onboarding, and ensure that in-app permissions remain in check. But, if these 5 tasks can be carried out, then Pokemon Go just might remain the top-grossing mobile app in the USA and maybe even the world for many months or even years. Either way, it’s up to you to learn from the lessons that Pokemon Go has provided, and implement them in a way that hopefully moves your mobile app across the top-grossing chart someday.

This post was written by Hannah Levenson for Appsee and was originally featured on business2community.com.

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