We make games! You already knew that because you’re reading our blog, but what you may not know is that we’ve partnered with a variety of organizations to design elegant platforms to house their games, apps, and other digital content. These projects have brought to light a number of design concepts that we wanted to share. Before we dig in, it’s important to understand two things.
Every project is different. Some are immensely complex with many features and numerous paths a user can take to navigate those features. Others involve simple mechanics and a direct, linear path.
Every client is different. Universally though, clients want their products to be unique. After all, they have — Objectives! Projections! Mission statements! — and a whole slew of other business-y words driving their vision, not to mention some stiff marketplace competition. Juggling these objectives can cause the most pragmatic of minds to fret over small details, loose sight of the bigger picture, and balloon smart features into a complicated and confusing experience for users.
Sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and focus on a “low-scope” solution that effectively carries out those project objectives. Low-scope is not a dirty word. It is not synonymous with “unfinished” or “ineffective”. There are ways to make a low-scope project a series of satisfying user experiences that also drive efficacy objectives. Occam’s razor is commonly used to explain worldly phenomenon and happenstance, but designers employ it as a problem-solving principle to find the optimal path through a product that effectively balances client needs with user wants. Simplicity is beauty.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s take a look at those design concepts that can make even the most simplistic project shine.
Rules are made to be broken. Before any screens or user interactions are conceptualized, designers establish The Grid. Not only does it help keep track of practical design choices - like how big a button has to be in order for it to be easily pressed - but it also establishes an invisible framework that gives the user a sense of familiarity amongst different layouts.
But there comes a time when designers begin to fight the grid. Somehow, somewhere, the very foundation of the design will get in the way of that optimal user path.
Break it. Then revel in the rebellion!
The Von Restorff effect tells us that the more absurd an element is, the more it will stand out and be remembered. Designers choose strategic ways to bend the rules in order to call attention to important information, help users find their way, and create visual interest.
Designers love icons. Iconographic artworks cannot replace the written word, but they can serve to enhance it. Easily adaptable to fit a project’s target demographic, icons represent abstract concepts in a non-disruptive way - supporting and clarifying text - without distracting from it. Think of them as a visual synopsis sprinkled throughout the content.
At it’s basic function, icon-driven design helps to break up large content blocks into easily digestible pieces. At it’s most complex, iconography can be a successful creative language all on its own.
Make it sparkly. The word “fun” isn’t often on a client’s list of objectives; there are more important matters. However, it is difficult to achieve the more important objectives if users don’t want to spend the necessary time in the product. The content may be valuable and relevant to them, but users expect to enjoy moving through a piece of software.
The eye-catching “wow” moments which make a product a pleasurable experience for users is called juice. No one wants to navigate through an experience by clicking grey, rectangular buttons center-aligned on the screen. It is human nature to want to be entertained - pleasantly surprised, even. Juice is what keeps users wanting more, and what leaves clients feeling satisfied with the overall quality of the product.
The “Wow” factor. A site needs to be usable, accessible, and coherent. But beyond clean visual information is the need to make sure the site delivers personality and a memorable “kick”. There are strategies for standing out- experiments in symmetry, alignment, use of visual elements to break up the space in unexpected ways….but the real answer is iteration and innovation. We’ll work with you to try new things, push the edges of what’s expected, and find the things that make the site stand out, and represent you best.
If you’re interested in partnering with us on your next project, drop us a line! We’d love to hear what you’re working on.