In this LevelUp episode, Melissa sits down with Om Tandon, UX Director at UX Reviewer Games Consultancy. They dive into what makes good UX, the similarities between producing games and films, the differences between user and human-centered design, and how to put design thinking into practice.

Tune in or keep reading for the highlights:

UX is more than just UI

"There's this myth that UX is all about the user interface, that UX is the buttons, the controls, the models, and elements. That's a UX designer's job but that's not UX. And working on UX is not just a UX designer's job, it's everybody's job because we’re talking about the whole experience. So, everything in the product is actually adding a layer of experience. 

Let's say you have a new product about to launch, how do you create anticipation for it? How do you excite players about that something is coming? So user experience for a game or any product starts way before it is even launched and how you are marketing it and creating anticipation for the product.

Once the players or the users have that product, it's about how intuitive it is, how easy to use, how much effort the player needs to put into it to understand and start enjoying the game. 

But then it's also about what happens when the player is not playing the game or using the product. How do they recall it? What kind of emotions do they have with it? What is the memory they're left with?" 

User-centered vs human-centered design

"I think we can borrow a lot from cinema. The development cycle is very similar to when you're building a big budget movie. The producers, the directors, the story writers, they have a vision. They want to build something their audience enjoys.

With game development there’s also a vision the founders believe in. They want it to be the best shooter out there and appeal to the audience. So UX designers’ job in the games industry is about balancing that intent, that vision of the developers with the needs and wants of the players.

So I think it is very important when we think of UX and games to use the term human-centered design rather than user-centered design. In UX it's all about satisfying the needs and wants of end users. But in human-centered design, we say no, we have more stakeholders.

In human-centered design, we say everybody who touches the product, their experience matters. And just as players are a key stakeholder group, so are developers and that's where we position ourselves."

The benefits of design thinking

"Another facet of human-centered design is what is called design thinking - it's a tool for innovation. It's not just about finding what users want and designing the experience for them, but also taking part in innovation. What it gives us is a footing in the business plan, because if we can help companies innovate, we can open more product lines, broaden revenue streams." 

Putting it into practice

"When I join a company, first thing I try to do is talk to my business stakeholders and understand what their pain points are, what they think about UX, and what their perspective is. You have to gauge what is the level of understanding of UX within the company. So there's a lot of stakeholder interviews, understanding the gap in the pipeline, all those things. 

I also try to create what I call a full stack UX designer. It depends on the maturity level of a company. In gaming, most companies have never had a UX designer before. So what I do is create a full stack UX designer. I start with a base where I say, your job is to do framing and prototyping. But also you should be able to do some kind of user research. You should be able to do workshops, you know, and through workshops we engage our business stakeholders."

Let's put these tips to good use

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