June 2020 (1 week)
Amber Yun, Crystal Cheng, Pei Tan
User research, Sketching, UI Design, Wireframing
Adobe XD, Invision
Mobile app that connects elementary schoolers to an educational and enjoyable world of games.
Opening animation for our app "Checkpoint". View full demo below.
New gamers could include young kids learning and sharing new discoveries with their friends, parents finding age-appropriate skills and games for their children, adults discovering games that fit their interests and time allotted, or senior citizens identifying games to connect to friends and family.
Our challenge was to "create a proficiency-focused app experience to inform new gamers about video games based on age-appropriateness and skills such as reading, hand-eye coordination, fitness, personal accountability, multi-tasking, problem-solving, memory, attention, concentration, social skills and more."
Building a Polished User Understanding
We began by creating a general user profile.
We wanted to focus on very young users, around ages 5 to 10, since we had the greatest access to gamers in the ages of 13 to 28 who we could speak to about their own introduction to gaming. I also noticed that children were being introduced to technology and gaining tech fluency at a younger age each year. In 2010, the average 5 year-old would know how to use a TV remote at most. Now in 2020, the average 5 year-old knows how to navigate smart-phones, tablets, and other gadgets. I predicted that this young demographic would grow to be a significant and untapped market of new gamers.
We defined our user as an uninformed but interested elementary school gamer. Our user's problem was that they wanted to play digital games but didn't know how to start looking for good games to play.
Play fun games
Don't know which games to download and play (choice overload)
Have to ask parents to download an app each time they find a new game they might want to try (decision barrier)
Children aged 5-10
We found that:
This shows that not only are users introduced to gaming via their social connections, but their longevity as a gamer is also influenced by social factors. Thus, we wanted to make sure to integrate an easy way to socialize in our own app.
After defining our target user, we sent a survey out to experienced gamers to understand what initially attracted people to gaming and what key characteristics people sought out in a game.
Action genre games are the most popular game genre.
The social aspect of gaming is very important to users. As shown in the left photo below, family, friends, and social media account for how 45.7% of users find new games and how 79.4% of users got into gaming in the first place. In the right photo, you can see that nearly half of users have implied that they would game more if more of their friends also played.
Brainstorming Potential Solutions
Considering our user's unique set of needs and frustrations, I drafted some thumbnail sketches of several concepts I had in mind.
Game tests" would take form as mini-games used to test the user's cognitive and physical aptitude. The information received from the mini-games would increase "gamer skills" such as hand-eye coordination and these skill levels would, in turn, be used to recommend games to the user. These game tests would allow the user to sample different kinds of games quickly and reduce choice overload.
Although we were not able to make an onboarding video in the short time of the competition, we think the addition of some sort of animated trip or tutorial around the virtual galaxy would be very helpful to quickly explain the rules of the game to young users.
The planetarium style exploration tab would be a fun way to physicalize a virtual library of games. I felt that this was particularly important for younger users who would have trouble understanding abstract manifestations of a game library. The red spaceship would serve as a home base for the user to return to at any point in the game.
Step 1: Welcome the explorer
In these first few screens, we onboard the user and ask them for basic information that will automatically alter the game suggestions and their profile to their preferences.
Step 2: Explore
We employ the idea of a virtual galaxy with planets that represent different genres of games (such as Action-Adventure, RPG, and Educational) and a rocketship that serves as home base at all times and pulls up the full bottom navigation. Users can challenge their friends to games, learn more about the history of certain games and genres, and play trivia.
Step 3: Connect
While playing games or exploring, users will eventually be asked to connect other social media apps or connect to friends manually. We integrated socialization smoothly into the user experience by creating a planet in which the user can link their other social media accounts. This allows them to challenge friends that are already on the app to a game or message them within the app.
Step 4: Collect more jet fuel
This is one of the mini aptitude games that users can play to get more jet fuel--a kind of game currency used to travel within the galaxy--and will increase their skill levels in categories like hand-eye coordination or memory.
Step 5: Profile
The skill increases and other achievements made throughout the game are tracked in the user's profile. Here they can see how much jet fuel they currently have and their list of friends.
FINAL CUSTOMER JOURNEY & DESIGN
As we continuously refined and adjusted our user journey into five primary steps, we also quickly created our wireframes.
First iteration of customer journey.
Second iteration of customer journey.
In the short time-frame of this project, the end goal of a finished prototype seemed like the most important step of the design process. Everything else was simply a means to the goal. But when my team members and I finished this project and started reflecting back on the design choices we had made, I had a difficult time recalling all the different twists and turns of our design process and understanding our rationale. I realized then that documentation of everything, from unused icons to grayscale wireframes, was so important in reminding ourselves of and explaining to a wider audience our design journey.
Discover the best route, not necessarily the most travelled one.
This thought experiment allowed me to reimagine what a gaming app could look like and resulted in a visualization that was both engaging and intuitive. Engaging interactions and intuitive navigation are valuable for every age demographic, not just young children, but in other projects I had worked on that served older age groups, I hadn't taken as much effort to reimagine established guidelines for design as I had on this project. I realized that by viewing our challenge from a new perspective, we gained better and unexpected results.
Since this mobile app was designed for young children, I repeatedly asked myself and the design team how we could simplify abstract concepts into easily understandable 2D icons and interactions. This meant that we used visual metaphors such as a spaceship which represented the user's home button and the solar system of planets which represented different genres of games.
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