The “WH” Questions of UX

And why I needed video games to point them out!

I play video games, I love actually playing video games, not in a blindly addicted way, rather in a more explorative way, I love the culture around it. I also like watching people playing games, not in the typical way over twitch, but observing their behavior as they are progressing through visual and emotional experiences. While studying it, I keep getting fascinated of how game design handles design matters, develops them and gives design solutions that offer unlimited hours of engagement.

In parallel, user experience in consumer and enterprise applications does focus extensively in the functionality and in the use cases, which both formulate the applications. Fun, flow, gameful, colorful, minimal, functional, multilevel, material, all these aspects are gathered and addressed with smart design solutions. Though, a major aspect that game design struggles with is keeping the users engaged for hours and hours. This means that, if a design issue could be handled with a smart graphical component, this component in an application might be used once per session, while in a game might be used constantly.

Let me give you two examples in the mobile area, where the screen area in both cases will be limited; in the one case a mobile application, whereas in the other a mobile game, but a serious mobile game!

Let’s say I open Spotify, I visit my library, I choose a playlist and tap to shuffle; at each screen I am able to see always the title on top of the screen, which indicates where I am as I navigate, even if I scroll a long list. That’s it, now I listen to my favourite music and I can work for the next few hours; a typical use case.

Spotify App for Android

For the second example, I get my PS Vita and play Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a whole 3D world displayed in this small screen and keeping to me company for the next hour while I am sitting in the train getting back from work. For the next hour I need to know constantly where I am, where I am looking at, what I am looking at and where I wish to go.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss by Naughty Dog for Playstation Vita

In both cases the indications of where the user stands, in the terms of the user experience navigation pattern, is part of the mechanics. Though, in the game, the action — interaction times in between are significantly smaller and their frequency relative higher; thus, these indications play a crucial role for the player’s engagement.

Having that in mind, I often grab the game controller, begin to walk into a 3D environment and start asking myself, what are the points or indications at each cognitive moment that I am seeking for in the game:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What do I see?
  3. Where do I go from here?
  4. Where do I have to go, what do I have to do, with what can I do it? or Where can I go, so what can I do, with what can I do it?
  5. How can I cancel or undo what I just did?
  6. Was it saved?
  7. How can I get back?

After writing down those seven questions, I revisit a screen in an application and wonder whether these questions can clearly fit as a checklist to the job of a UX designer. I think they do. :)

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