Attached is my final research paper. Within this I’ve conducted a usability case study of EA’s website for Spore. This study helps understand the importance of good web presence and how that might relate to increased sales.
“The website usability case study for Spore.com is broken down into three sections, a case study of the site using Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics, user research and a competitive analysis.”
This course was eye opening to me, not because I learned so much, but because so much was reaffirmed for me. I’ve known the importance of good design and usability in theory, but have never taken a class where the actual processes have been laid out for me to dig through. Being able to pick apart websites and compare them to their competition was fun. Reading Moggridge’s book was tough due to the amount of knowledge it held, but once done I looked back and appreciated the overall knowledge and timeline of technology presented. Often I find myself searching for the whole process or view, saying to myself “please just start from the beginning for the sake of us newbies;” Moggridge’s book is comprehensive. For example, it detailed the evolution of the mouse and the rise of Macintosh, two every interesting points.
To be more specific about my learning in this course, I came across two eye opening things. One, I wasn’t aware I found video games so interesting…yes strange I know. Not simply interesting because they’re a form of entertainment, but interesting in the development of them. They are the apex of creativity, with so little recognition going to the creators. I can relate the video game industry to my knowledge of the movie industry, which I worked in for the better part of my 20′s. I find the breakdown of gamers (casual, hardcore, etc) very interesting as well the marketing tactics that go into hitting those different groups. I see the evolution of the gamer from nerdy school boy to female socialite fascinating and see this progress attributed to console changes in products like the Wii and Xbox. In my first journal entry I note the “shift in perception of video games, meaning the tight conception of “gamer nerds” is splintering and experiences are becoming shared. This sharing aspect might have been a contributing factor to the inclusion of women into the video gaming experience, as well as the research linking increased female participation to casual gaming.” Continue reading
When you’re eating, how many times to you intentionally think about your fork? It’s a tool we rarely think twice about, yet something we use every day. At a restaurant we’ll swap forks if it’s dirty, but if it’s too heavy, small, or awkward we tend to just accept it. Why? Besides the design of the ‘spork,’ which is more commonly used in fast food and military arenas due to is dual use as a spoon and fork, there haven’t been enormous design innovations in the fork. In Donald Norman’s book “The Design of Everyday Things,” he states “well-designed objects are easy to interpret and understand. They contain visible clues to their operation,” (p. 2). In essence, the fork is a good design for the purpose of eating, but when designers try to be too creative issues can arise.
As Norman describes in his door example, the fork is simply understood. But the ease of understanding contextual. If you are unaware of what a fork it, you can visualize a use for either end, although it is more likely you would pick the pronged or ‘tined’ end to do something with. In the context of a dinner party, it is easy to understand you’d this instrunment for the action of spearing your food, but what if you found a fork in the forest? Stumbling upon this item in the forest you could guess this to be a weapon, an agricultural tool, a comb, etc. It’s the context that helps us define things, and thus historically helped define the fork.
In a New York Times article, A-Ron, a 29 year old Manhattan resident, answers “how do I turn my lifestyle into a business?” A high school dropout, A-Ron started putting his own personal brand on products he calls aNYthing, which he sells at stores. But why do these items sell?
In class tonight our guest speaker Corbet Curfman, a branding expert, discussed the idea of brand. He talked in depth about what makes a brand successful. One aspect he spoke to was having a “no substitute” type of product. This means the products can’t be replaced by something else in the customer’s eyes. A-Ron’s brand is very unique and displays a cultural message about New York that people can relate to, and those outside New York who want to relate. The article states the reason for A-Ron’s success clearly, “if a product is successfully tied to an idea, branding persuades people — consciously or not — to consume the idea by consuming the product.” Corbet spoke a lot about this and was quite insightful about branding, even interactive branding which aNYthing has also broken into by selling products online along side video clips and music.
What I hear, I forget.
What I see, I remember.
What I do, I understand.
– Lao Tse, Chinese philosopher, b. 604 BC
Picture of the Spark.
Amanda McCoy Bast, Senior Designer for Adobe in Seattle, joined our class last week to discuss design. Originally starting at Adobe as a Print Designer, Amanda provided us with a thorough overview of the design process from her perspective. While reading Moggridge in preparation for her presentation, she emphasized three items in the chapter that mirror what she does as a design professional: constraints, prototypes and proximity. Moggridge highlights an interview in his book between Charles Eames and Madame Amic, Eames says that design is “a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose,” (p. 648). We’ll look at how this definition relates to Amanda’s key points from Moggridge and explore a design case study for Inkwell’s Spark.
In last week’s class, Shelley Armstrong, a Microsoft veteran, spoke about the inception of the Xbox 360. Happy as a freelance designer, Shelley was excited about the opportunity to help rework the Xbox and considered it possibly a “dream job.” She mentioned many interesting facts that lead up to the launch of the Xbox 360, one that stood out to me most was the people factor. She stressed the importance of finding the right people to drive the product to success. Finding the right people meant finding knowledgeable people passionate about the gaming space and equipped with the tools it took to execute effectively. View high def product demo.
Apart from the people aspect, the team really listened to the consumer through usability testing. Regarding
Final UI Design
the blades of the UI for the Xbox 360, Armstrong’s team presented 4 different UI scenarios; the blade design was only one of these concepts. From the usability testing they were able pick and choose popular aspects of each design and incorporate it into the final blade UI design.
People can get lost in their work if they’re also a consumer, especially when they are working on something they love. Conducting usability testing is a great way to make sure you evaluate your design from an objective viewpoint. If UI testing (or additional testing on other components) had not been done, the team might have chosen something biased by their game designer perspective.
What makes a consumer decide to purchase a video game? Is it advertising through commercial or viral channels, consumer loyalty, or just an impulse buy? Within my final paper I will do a usability case study of Spore.com, the website for EA’s new game. Using Jakob Nielsen’s ten usability heuristics I hope to determine how desirable it is to purchase Spore using their website as a marketing tool. This study will help understand the importance of good web presence and how that might relate to increased sales. Within this proposal I will defend my reason for choosing this project, discuss the information I already know, and wrap up by discussing my strategy for completion.
Not often we find ourselves actively seeking out entertainment; rather entertainment is weaved into our lives, almost instinctual. As a video game consumer I shop with a goal. I already know through reviews, loyalty to the previous version of the game or attractive advertising, what I want to purchase. It’s important for companies to realize that traditional methods of advertising are not longer effective. Within that statement rests my interest to study the usability of Spore.com. As Hayes notes in my post on Interaction Design in Video Games, video games are a child’s first venture into the digital world. Why do we choose to make this statement true?
When was the last time you booked a vacation using a travel agent? Likely not recently since booking travel online has become so easy. Companies like Expedia and Orbitz offer a convenient service for consumers by allowing a “one stop shop” experience for your travel needs. But how does the usability of their sites rate? Without an obvious competitor it is hard to compare services, especially if most sites are the same. But it might be helpful first to take a glance to see who these consumers are that travel companies are designing their sites for.
Specifically Expedia, using Quantcast we can see that 55% of users are affluent women with a skew to being older, typically have no children and college are educated. This lets us make some assumptions about how the usability of the site is designed to target this demographic. One assumption about the consumer is their familiarity with the internet and how to navigate it. Providing additional advertisements and promotions on the homepage might create more impulse purchases since they feel comfortable with their experience online. As a consumer myself, it is nice to have the freedom to search without pressure and choose the best travel option. Possibly this is the reason for the added clutter; the consumer might not be purchasing right then, but the travel site has a chance to influence their future purchase.
In a quick review of Expedia and two of its well know competitors Orbitz and Travelocity, I found three common factors in the design of their homepage. The first was the overall design, they are all very similar. Each has a look that incorporates beveled graphical elements, a blue scheme (possibly trying to relate to the sky), and multiple column layouts occupied with duplicate information (see graphical comparison below). All three use the same radial button design for consumers to select their travel options. One might argue this design element makes searching for travel more intuitive because it is easy to understand, but why does each site have the same format? I would argue that one seemed successful, thus why not copy? But to counter this statement, doesn’t this make it easy to cross over and use their competing site?
Flowchart process for fake candle website: flowchart.
Process for ficticous candle site: wireframe.