Week 10 – Two examples of user interface design (UI) the good, the bad and the ugly.

I wanted to write a post looking at examples of user interface design (UI) and what inspires my own creative process and what I have also discovered through research that really didn’t work or appeal to me at all explained through using key ideas of what makes good user interface design (UI).

As my app looks to encorporate a gaming angle or using a game as a reward for completing the main objective of my app I wanted to look at two examples of gaming app design.

The first is what first comes to my mind when I think of good user interface design (UI), that example is a game I first discovered a couple of years ago called ‘Two Dots’.

‘Two Dots’ is the most simple and clean design of a game, so minimal in it’s visual nature that if it was any more simple it would be very dull, even the game itself isn’t complicated especially in it’s early levels, where you can pass through the first handful of levels in a matter of minutes. The game does just enough to capture your interest and make you want to carry on, eventually it becomes difficult enough to be challenging to complete the levels.

First I’ll explain what you see when you first load up the game.

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Figure 1 – The opening five screenshots of the game (Playdots Inc, 2016).

It’s all explained in five simple instructions, the background is a pure clean white which adds to this minimal and simplistic style the game runs throughout it. It’s clever because the pure focus and interaction is on the game itself. You have to swipe the screen and interact with the basic tasks which in turn teach you how to play the game. The rules are made very clear and concise and after four initial screens, you are then rewarded by being allowed to start the game.

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Figure 2 – The first level of the game (Playdots Inc, 2016).

The actual game itself offers a little more information, you have the same interactions as you were shown before to complete the level. You have access to the settings on every level. The level you are at is presented at the bottom. They key information is that you have a limit to the moves you need to make to complete the game presented on the top left. You have your goal in the centre at the top where you are asked to join a certain number of each coloured dot. If you can do this quickly you can get three stars for the level and closer to the maximum that reduces to 2 and then to 1. Every level offers a combination of moves to finish with three stars or dots as this game presents them.

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Figure 3 – The completion of the first level (Playdots Inc, 2016).

Each level ends with a succes screen, simple avatar characters, your score for the level and an opportunity to continue and a smaller option to repeat the level. There is also now an option to share your success or score with friends online through facebook. This process repeats itself as the levels get increasingly more difficult as you progress through the game. The game is seemingly endless on current personal experience.

This game is the definition of the efficient, it is very simple with no clutter at all. The simple clean finish though in most examples would be dull, it actually compliments the game very nicely, the use of colour is sparce and mostly confined to the welcome screen, reward screen and the colours of the dots on each level you need to combine to complete the level.

The information is clear and very easy to understand, it is worth noting this game is actually aimed at a more universal audience than specifically children. The typography is very easy on the eye and soft, the other interaction is through a very simple and complimentary music that plays as you combine the dots making a range of Xylophone likes noises the more dots your combine in one move.

I think what defines the success of this game is that the simple clean concept has been repeated on a number of games since and a key example of that the Apple Design Awards given to great app design gave out one of their two student award prizes to a game called ‘Linium’ by a designer called Joaquin Vila. The game is also clever and simple and employs similar stylings to the ‘Two Dots’ game which has grown to be a huge success, it is also worth noting ‘Two Dots’ is a free app.

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Figure 4 – Linum by Joaquin Vila a student award winner of the Apple App design awards. (Apple Inc, 2017)

When creating my own app, in particular if I created a game, I’d want the game to be simple and functional as well as challenging like in ‘Two Dots’, I think they did a great job with the design of this game. Naturally if I was aiming my game at a younger audience I would adapt the soundtrack to reflect that audience and adapt the menu and complete screen to be more visual and maintain the attention of the app user.

I discovered through the course of researching my app a number of gaming related apps about airplanes, which was one of my leading lines of research when it came to adding a potential gaming element to my app, in that research I discovered the ‘free app’ called Planes which is very much what I believe to cover many of the things I don’t like in app design.

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Figure 5 – The welcome screen to Planes (Zeta Byte Corp, 2015).

As you enter the game you are met with a nice glossy welcome screen which guides you into the game, again it’s a game with a simple concept to land a airplane on the runway.

This game in my opinion shows perhaps that the skills and resources of those that created it are limited. It’s beyond this welcome screen where the problems begin to stack up with this app.

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Figure 6 – Gameplay (Zeta Byte Corp, 2015).

The game in itself is very simple, you have a runway, you have a plane (which doesn’t match that in the welcome screen) which makes you question the consistency. The goal is to safely land the plane as many times as possible within the timeframe of a minute. You steer the plane by tilting the screen and the plane will land if it remains straight on the runway. The scale at the bottom shows how much the plane is tilting and you want to keep it centered.

Though this initial concept is fine, it is also in reality very fast paced and it’s hard to stay on top of the game as and when the plane decides to land. The plane crashes very easily and the soundtrack is very loud and brash, there is no complexity to this game, it just repeats over and over again with seemingly the main intention to throw a whole number of adverts in your face to promote and pay for other games or games with in app purchases. What makes it even worse is you can’t skip some of the adverts and when you try to leave the adverts it can even crash the app. All in all it is a very morally corupt advert considering it’s clearly aimed at children.

The retention on this game is awfully short but by then you will have had a good 5-10 other apps shown in your face which seems to be the true incentive to this particular game.

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Figure 7 – Gin Rummey plus advertisting (Zeta Byte Corp, 2015).

Upon loading I was greeted with this app which is a light version of a game that for adults would encourage gambling.

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Figure 8 РCooking Fever Advertising  (Zeta Byte Corp, 2015).

I encountered a number of promotions for completely unrelated games loosely aimed at children.

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Figure 9 – The result was leaving the game feeling much like the image that ends this particular advert for ‘Cooking Fever Pizzeria’ (Zeta Byte Corp, 2015).

For all the advertising moved to one side the game still lacked that successful user interaction that made you want to return to the game more than once, there was no complexity, no advancement, you felt very detached from the game almost instantly with no user retention. It was very clumsy to navigate and it was easy to critisise, there are plenty of apps on the market like this one. I would argue there are plenty of great apps out there created by talented minds even with limited skills and resources, the story of ‘Flappy Bird’ and it’s creator is a good example of that.

Yet sadly they complete with a good portion of get rich quick apps who create a poor basic product just full of potential advertising revenue by quick linking you to other apps and games.

References:

Apple Inc (2017) Apple design awards – apple developer. Available at: https://developer.apple.com/design/awards/ (Accessed: 12 January 2017).

Playdots Inc (2016). Two Dots (3.4.0) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com

Zeta Byte Corp (2015). Aeroplaying Flying: Flight Test & Parking Simulator (1.3) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com

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