Spore.com, a Journey Through Usability: Case Study Proposal

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?


I have already pulled some demographic information using Quantcast and can make some brief assumptions about Spore.com. The demographic information speaks to the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating system, rated for players ages 10 and above. The prevalent visitors of Spore.com are ages 12-17, a group without steady income. Two things can be inferred about this. One, the typical user exercises influencing power and has the ability to oversell the game. Two, the players and purchasers are not always the same. How do website users persuade the purchaser to buy? I would like to assume that the usability of Spore.com plays a part because the site content appeals to stereotypical parental (assumed purchasers) morals.


Jakob Nielsen’s usability heuristics will be the main evaluation tool for Spore.com. I have already begun to review these ten rules and see the site leaning towards a favorable review, but time and more detailed research could change this. While applying the heuristics and demographic information to my research, I will use my knowledge about general design concepts and my history as a consumer to round out my findings. I will refer closely to Nielsen’s book “Usability Engineering” to guide me to an understanding about the heuristics. I’ll also compliment my research with studies about video game purchasing habits and discuss some real life scenarios.


In addition to the above, I will conduct user research. Typical of a case study, I will select a handful of participants to provide feedback on their experience at Spore.com. What I hope to find is that positive user experience relates to a strong curiosity to purchase the game. For companies this is invaluable information, for my purpose it will reiterate that usability is extremely important and worth examining further. This final paper hopes to infer the necessity of a positive web experience; this experience reflects the target market’s personality and character. User research, along with demographic and usability analysis will help me complete this research.

Click to view the ten usability heuristics from Jakob Nielsen.


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