Archive

Posts Tagged ‘ux philosophy’

Sell More on Your Website by Understanding a Bit About Entropy

October 19, 2011 3 comments

If you listened to Monday’s podcast, you know that I’m on a bit of a kick about entropy. It has to do with this book I’m reading called The Information, by James Gleick. The book is a history of information and the rise of information theory. Really good stuff. And he spends a good bit of time going on about entropy.

Now, entropy is a bit of a scary word. It has a kind of intrinsic feel to it, like we have some intuitive sense of what it means but when it comes to spitting out a specific definition, we all turn into karaoke performers trying to sight read Snow’s song “Informer”.

Hello? 1992 called. They want their metaphor back.

Entropy, simply, is a measure of the unavailability of work inside a closed system.

At least that was its original definition. It was first purposed by Rudolf Clausius and described a specific quality of thermodynamics.

Energy as Information

James Clerk Maxwell was the first to link this quality to the idea of information.  See, he looked at it as order and disorder. Order and disorder imply knowledge. To make order you must know something about the thing you are ordering. In his mind, it involved a little demon who controlled a very tiny door between two rooms. In one room were fast moving molecules. In the other room were slow moving molecules. And he decided what molecules got through the door. While he was sitting at the door he could choose to mix the molecules or keep them separate. But, because of the laws of thermodynamics, if he were to just open the door, after a period of time of fast molecules bumping into small molecules, every molecule would more or less be moving at the same speed*.

Makes a great Halloween costume.

With the help of Maxwell’s Demon, entropy was now linked to information.

The second law of thermodynamics says that entropy is always increasing. This means that without intervention, everything moves from order to disorder. Or to put that another way, from specific to general.

If you’ve ever been to a business meeting, you’ve seen this before: Interesting, dynamic ideas often get presented at the start of a meeting and boring, mediocre ones often end them.  Sweet, sweet car designs are presented at automobile shows and then the same boring sedans are cranked out year after year. Windows XP was supplanted by Windows Vista.

Entropy is everywhere.

A case can be made that what made Steve Jobs great was his ability to fight entropy in the extreme. Before him, computers were for governments, science and business. Because of him we can talk to our phone using natural language and it can respond to our information needs.  For sure, he didn’t do this alone and in a vacuum.  But it’s hard to deny that he brought information to the masses in a way that had never been seen or experienced before.

He gave people the tools to be able to manipulate information – to create order out of disorder. He created the technological environment that we are now living in.  Would there be an Android without an iPhone?  Would Windows 7 be half the OS it is now without having to compete with OSX?

Dig a little deeper into social behavior and two themes for how people deal with entropy begin to emerge.

People’s Relationship to Entropy

  1. They want to create order from disorder
  2. Not all the time

Now let’s run those two rules through a “customer” filter and see what happens.

Customer’s Relationship to Entropy

  1. People have a finite amount of energy to spend in a day
  2. As a result, people want to conserve their energy
  3. People want to expend energy on activities of their choice
  4. People do not want to spend their energy unnecessarily

And like that we’re out of thermodynamics and into the world of web design.

Common Sense Stuff

What a customer is saying is: I’ll buy your product or service if I like it and the price but I’m not going to spend a lot of energy to do it.

Now we can state the goal of web design in scientific terms:

The goal of web design is to produce a website with low entropy.

That is to say, a web design is successful when it makes it easy for a person to do what they want to with as little effort as possible.

And this can be measured.  Right now.  In fact, you may already be measuring it.

Entropy and Efficiency

Look at the number of visitors to your site.  Look at the number of sales.  Now, do that for the past six months, or year, or two years and get an average number of visits to sales.  Whatever that percentage is, that’s how well your website has worked over that period of time.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument that you have 100 visitors to your website each month, on average, for the past year. And in that time, on average, you had 2 sales each month.  Simple math will tell you that your website has a 2% conversion rate.  That is to say, it is two-percent efficient.

The goal of user testing is to discover changes that can be made that will increase the number of sales on your website, given the same number of visitors.

If user testing is conducted and changes are made to the website in the above example and over the next several months the website averaged 4 sales per month, the website would have doubled its efficiency from 2% to 4%.

Efficiency is directly related to entropy. Entropy, remember is about order and disorder. The more order we bring to the website, the less energy the visitor has to expend to buy the product or service and the more efficient it is.

The reason we should talk as designers about entropy rather than efficiency is because efficiency is a by-product of entropy, not the other way around. Entropy is by its nature probabilistic.  The more knowledge you have about the pages of your website, the more effect you have can on reducing entropy – you become like Maxwell’s demon deciding which molecules to let through the door.

Practically Speaking

Every page on your website that somebody can find via search or a link is a potential entry point. Likewise, every page is a click away from being an exit point. It’s all very messy and random.

The job of web designers, programmers, interface designers, and SEO people do is give shape to those pages.

SEO is responsible for managing the website’s relationship with search engines. Another way to think about it is that they are responsible for getting traffic to the website. In a closed system, an SEO guy wouldn’t be necessary. But our website itself exists in the larger eco-system of the Internet and so messaging extends beyond your website. SEO, because of its connection to traffic, is the first person to set expectations for your website’s visitors.

Designers and programmers work to bring shape to the website. E-commerce sites have catalog pages, product description pages, a cart, and a checkout process – and they show up in that order.

Information sites like Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia are designed so that information can be easily found and accessed.

From disorder emerges order.

On this website we’ve spent a good bit of time talking about defining a website’s critical path. We believe that user testing should revolve around improving the efficiency of that path.  It’s important to remember that it’s a literal path. It is about energy flow.

Entropy, for a website, can be defined as the likelihood that a visitor to a website will NOT complete the critical path.

Fighting entropy on a website means giving form to and then reducing the resistance of the critical path.

This is why a conversion funnel is such a valuable web analytics tool.  It shows entry and exit points with respect to the critical path.  It points out to you places where user testing could reduce entropy.

On Friday, we’re going to take a look at the third-rail of web design: pricing.

Nothing introduces entropy into a website quite like pricing.  Money is really a physical manifestation of a person’s energy.  They know that they have to expend a certain amount of energy to accumulate money.  Money, like energy, is also finite for most people. Thus, pricing is directly related energy, and thus, entropy.

We’re going to take a look at some pricing strategies that can reduce entropy and increase the odds that your site’s visitors will respond positively to your price point.

#####

* I saw more or less because it’s not practical for the average person to know the behavior of every molecule. So what has risen in its place are laws of probability. That is to say, while a closed system tends towards maximum entropy, at the molecular level, there will be exceptions to this rule. Extremely unlikely events, however unlikely, still happen. But at the macro level, these probabilities are so low as to be practically non-existent.

Better User Experience Podcast #10: Entropy and Web Usability

October 17, 2011 6 comments

Newman is, no kidding, on a five day canoe trip down the Suwannee River in Florida. It’s enough to make you want to break out in song, I swear…

In lieu of lining up another special guest this week I decided to pull a one-man show and talk about everybody’s favorite topic: entropy.

Wait! Hold that yawn! I swear, I’m going to clarify things for you and turn around and show you why it’s a big deal for web usability.

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes – new episodes are available every Monday!

And, if you’re interested, you can read more about entropy and information theory in the book The Information by James Gleick.

Podcast Corrections

  • I refer to Rudolf Clausius as Clausius Rudolf at least once in the podcast. My bad. His name is actually Rudolf Clausius.

It’s the questions, stupid: less biased and more accurate tests

October 7, 2011 4 comments

True or false: User testing is about getting into the head of the user?

gorgeous bald-headed Natalie
Pictured: the head of a user.

Before I began this post I would told you that absolutely, user testing is all about getting into the head of the user. Why else would we ask them questions and go to such great expense to make those questions accurate, valid and reliable test instruments if not to get in their head?

Liar, liar pants on fire…

But we know that people often don’t mean what they say. Studies have shown that in a typical 10-minute conversation, the average person will tell 2.92 falsehoods. In essence, we filter what we say based on our context and situation. Much of what we say is coded for transmission based on the receiver. That’s a nice way of saying: I’m going to tell you what you want hear. It’s just a little white lie. Don’t worry about it, it’s not gonna hurt anybody.

It’s easier to do with speech than with actions. Our physical bodies have their own way of communicating. We call it body language.

Body Language

It’s been said that “hips don’t lie”.

She’s got a point.

But your body is constantly broadcasting what you’re feeling. Micro gestures in the face can tip off a liar or whose guilty. It’s how magicians guess names. Witness in the below video how the “magician” guesses the name of the ex-boyfriend by asking the woman a rapid series of questions by which he can observe her facial micro gestures.

Did you know that your feet are the most honest part of your body? Almost nobody pays attention to what they are doing with their feet. You can observe openness or defensiveness by whether the feet are in front or are behind and crossed or behind and wrapped around the chair legs.  (You checked your feet, didn’t you?)

Check out the nervous guy at the end of the bar… What is he doing with his hands? Posture?

I’m pretty sure he’s just happy to see me.

What does this mean for the evaluator or user test creator? Does it mean we have to check to see if they’re packing heat or if they’re Shakira? Are these examples helping?

What it really means is that it’s very difficult to write (verbalize) a test question and not tip off your bias.

It seems to me that most of the standard test questions are leading the users. For example, “How do you feel about this test?” or “Tell me about your Mother.“.

What if the user doesn’t feel anything about that? Once you force someone to generate a feeling, I figure they fall back onto their default response. For some it’s a negative response. Some, it’s a positive response.

Tester default response (call it tester bias? Tester prejudice?) must be accounted for. Personally, I believe in the “innocent until proven guilty” adage. The website I’m viewing is presumed innocent of design mistakes, until it breaks a design rule. Websites are presumed innocent. Finding out this tester default response is key to understanding user testers.

But it that getting into their head?

All of this is academic and probably doesn’t really effect in a measurable way the outcome of tests-especially at this basic level. However I feel it is good to visit and share these thoughts as we encounter them. The pitfall is thinking, “I will not past because I can’t be scientific in my measurement.”

Here are some ways I plan to alter the script based on my understandings stated above:

Tasks first, impressions later

For the practical user testing scenario, I suggest tasks first and impressions later. Allow the user to work with the site in form and impressions in a natural way. I understand that the research shows that you only have 5 seconds for someone to determine whether or not they want to stay on that page versus clicking the back button. But, in the testing environment it doesn’t really translate. Perhaps a good compromise is that ask them to make a personal note, not to be shared, about their first impression. And then, after the tasks are complete, ask them to revisit that first impression and see how it changed. This might be more beneficial and give a truer sense of the users impression.

What this protects against is my initial reaction to prejudice. By asking me my impressions after only 5 seconds you are really just determining my prejudice. All sites are innocent until proven guilty of wasting my attention or stealing my cognitive load.

Go ahead it’s okay to say it stinks

There has got to be a way to set the environment-and I’m talking about actively setting up the testing environment- to be open and honest. That doesn’t mean setting nice music playing and making sure you talk in a soothing voice-that crap would set me on edge. In such a clinical environment, I would feel less inclined to give my actual opinion. To be frank I don’t know exactly how to do this. Anonymous testers might feel more inclined for negative feedback. Perhaps the sandwich method of positive-negative-positive could be used. Are remote tests better than face to face?  Strangers vs Friends?

I can’t do it with you watching me

Big EyesSeriously. Stop that.

Being observed makes me nervous. It’s unfortunate because user testing is all about making observations. The point I want to make is in order to make the environment open and honest for feedback-both positive and negative-it could be important to make the recordings and note taking inconspicuous. People understand they are being recorded, but will quickly return to a more natural expression when the recording isn’t conspicuous.

Conclusion

The whole point of user testing is to observe users interacting with your design with the intent to improve that interaction. There will always be some degree of bias in both the evaluator and the tester. It’s not required to eliminate it in order to find the majority of  problems. However, if you think about and make a few changes to the standard scripts for user testing you can get a less biased and more accurate test of actual user experience.

Questions:

Do you have to get into user’s heads for a good user test?

How do you set the tone for a user test in order to elicit honest and open feedback?

Do you account for the natural, tester baseline / default response?

Do you, in a systematic way, observe and measure body language from the testers?

Using Feng-GUI in Determining Your Website’s Critical Path

October 5, 2011 4 comments

Have you heard the good news?

Web usability testing works.

What’s more awesome is that just the act of focusing on your website and thinking about it systematically can result in website improvements.  I’ve spoken with two business owners in the past week – one a DJ and the other an accountant about their websites.  I talked to the DJ a few weeks back about defining a critical path on his website and helped him think through what services he offers and how to make them part of the critical path. He called me earlier this week ecstatic. He had made the changes I recommended and in the few intervening short weeks, incoming calls from new perspective clients increased 300%.  Many of those callers specifically mentioned that the website was what provoked them to pick up the phone.

He couldn’t be happier.

The other guy is an accountant and I just spoke to him today about defining his website’s critical path and redesigning the website around it. After years of having the same website, just talking about a critical path made his eyes light up. He immediately saw what I was getting at and it caused him to think about his website and how it can be improved.  If he can maintain the dissatisfaction with his current site, based on the idea that it doesn’t create a good flow through a critical path, then he will eventually decide to make the changes that will help his business, like the DJ above.

I also have a good friend who runs a web design business. We’ve been talking about web usability and employing the techniques we discuss here to improve the websites of his clients.

To get him in the mood to talk web usability, Newman and I decided to take the front page of his website and run it through Feng-GUI to see what it thought of the website.

Here’s what we tested: (I’ve removed the name of the company and the location in which he works out of respect for my buddy.)

And here’s what we got back:

What you’re looking at is a gaze-plot chart.  The circles represent the places a web user would look on the site.  The number in the circle tells you the order and place where the user looks.

Now, the $64,000 question. What are the take-aways from the gaze-plot chart?

Remember that the purpose – in my mind – of user testing is to shore up the website’s critical path.

What we see in the above image is that the user is utterly confused about what to do.  There’s a small giveaway that the company knows their website is difficult to navigate too. They have a small “Questions?” pop-up balloon at the bottom of their page where users can chat with somebody from the company.

To me, rather than looking like a nice way to make yourself available to prospective clients, what the Questions bubble says to users is that their website is too dense and that you can short-cut your way around the whole thing just by talking to somebody directly.

But if the user wanted to talk to somebody directly, why didn’t they just pick up the phone?

So right away we have some cause to be concerned about determining the critical path of the website.  The “Questions” balloon isn’t inspiring confidence and the gaze-plot seems to confirm the idea that the site is confusing to visitors.

The next thing I wanted to do was look at what their critical path should be.  To do that I looked at their menu and listed out all of their options.  They are:

  • Home
  • Company
  • Support
  • Design
  • SEO
  • Portfolio
  • Blog
  • Contact
  • Client Login

Additionally they have three tabs that also seem to be part of the menu so I will add them here as well. They are:

  • Web Services
  • Network Services
  • Testimonials

Remember, a critical path is the path that a user takes in order to get what they (and you) want.  In this instance, because they are a service-oriented firm, the website is supposed to provide leads. We know that to be true because the company went so far as to put a “Request A Quote” on the front page. So we can list a contact as the ultimate goal, and the front page as the logical place where the user will start their journey.

Let’s write all that out.

Step 1: Front page

Step 2: ???

Step 3: Contact (Profit!)

What you’ll see here is that, as seems to be the norm, step 2 needs to be better defined.  Step 2 is the path between the front page and getting that contact.

In order to determine what step 2 should be, we need to look at what it is this company does. Using the menu items above, I will now divide that list into Things They Do and Other Stuff.

Things They Do

  • Design
  • SEO
  • Web Services
  • Network Services

Other Stuff

  • Home
  • Company
  • Support
  • Portfolio
  • Blog
  • Contact
  • Client Login
  • Testimonials

When we group their menu items by what they do, it immediately becomes apparent that they are not giving themselves a fair shake. Part of this has to do with terminology and part of this has to do with the fact that not everything they do is listed on the website. This is a problem because I know they didn’t mean to be intentionally vague.

That leads to the obvious question, what do they do?

Since I have experience with this firm, I can tell you that they do five main things:

  1. Web Design
  2. Web Marketing
  3. Hosting
  4. Hardware Sales
  5. Networking Services

All of which, except for hardware sales, is accounted for (if just barely) by their list. The difference between the two lists is that my list is consistent and their list is alternately too specific and too vague.  They list ‘design’ as something they do but it’s not self-evident that it’s web design.  They do SEO, PPC, and social network marketing but all that’s listed in the menu is ‘SEO’.  The phrase ‘web services’ is confusing because it sits next to ‘design’ and ‘SEO’ which makes you wonder what else ‘web services’ could be referring to. And finally there’s ‘Network Services’ which is something they do, but for some reason when I was first doing this, I ignored.

In place of their list, I would substitute mine.

Next, I’d take a look at all of the remaining menu items and I would try to combine and arrange them into a coherent secondary menu.  The reason we have these items on the secondary menu is because we are distinguishing between pages that get a user onto the critical path and pages that get a user onto a secondary path.

In this instance, the above Other Stuff list can be condensed to:

  • Home
  • Company
  • Blog
  • Contact
  • Client Login

Furthermore I would substitute the phrase “About Us” for “Company” and would replace the “Contact” page with a “Customer Service” page.

This leaves two menu items left, the portfolio page and the testimonials page. I’ve left them out because while they aren’t technically part of the critical path, it’s virtually guaranteed that this page will be viewed by potential clients before they make the decision to reach out and contact the company.  This makes it necessary to promote it to the main menu rather than to keep it on the secondary menu.  It’s such a substantial part of the selling process that I believe it’s better to weave the portfolio and testimonials throughout the website.

This leaves us with the following primary and secondary menus:

Primary Menu:

  • Web Design
  • Web Marketing
  • Hosting
  • Hardware Sales
  • Network Services
  • Portfolio

Secondary Menu

  • Home
  • Company
  • Blog
  • Contact
  • Client Login

Now all that’s left is to draw some boxes that bring all of this together.  Here’s what I did:

From there Newman mocked it up and ran it through Feng-GUI.

What we were hoping to see was a visual narrative that made sense. In our original test, the gaze-plot was all over the place.  Now that we’ve put the most important things out front and center, we should see the gaze-plot be a lot more orderly, an indication of understanding.

Here’s what Feng-GUI thought of the redesign:


It’s a mock up that’s for demonstration purposes only, not meant to be other than looking at how the content blocks are seen.  And I think we can safely say that this is a BIG improvement over what currently exists there now.

What we’ve proved is that if you keep your eye on the critical path of your website and design your information so that it can be digested at a glance, it will yield valuable results.

For Further Consideration

One thing that kind of bugs me about the above gaze plot is that nobody seems to be reading the information that’s in the main image.  Arguably, that should be some important info there.  It leads me to think that this opens us up to testing different headline sizes and different messages in that space to determine what works most effectively.

Questions:

  1. This whole post presumes that Feng-GUI returns valuable data. Is it dangerous to make all of the assumptions that I did in this post based on an algorithm that simulates eye-tracking rather than doing it with a real test subject?
  2. Does this mean that we’re forced into a box model for most service-oriented websites?

The Ben and Newman Show Podcast #004

September 12, 2011 Leave a comment

This week’s podcast is a good one. Honestly, I thought we were going to end up trashing fivesecondtest.com based on Newman’s experiences with the site last Friday but instead we saw the light and figured out how to put it to good use. We also devised a Deathmatch event between fivesecondtest.com and Feng-GUI and Newman will be sharing the results in his blog post on Friday. It’s a lot of fun.

Check back on Wednesday for a great blog I’m cooking up on the most useful Google Analytics reports for small business owners.

And, if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes – new episodes are available every Monday!


1:15 – Chatting with your buddy about User testing

2:30 – Newman Yawns

3:00 – Talking about textwoo.com and fivesecondtest.com

5:13 – Rushing through a fivesecondtest.com.  Designer or User fault?

7:00 – Train users to use fivesecondtest.com?

8:00 – 5 seconds to judge a website?

8:28 – lyric site vs ecommerce –

10:30 –  mp3 buying UX – size of the market –

12:00 –  Valid test?  out of context search

13:32 – confuse the users – Hidden tester, crouching usability expert

14:50 –  “sifting out sites” – the search process –

15:40 – “Not about yes, about getting rid of no.”

16:30 – Beta testing?

17:50 – Who is qualified to create and analyze these tests?

18:30 – Generic questions okay?

20:50 – 5 second thought exercise

21:40 – “What would you want someone to notice in the first 5 seconds?”

24:15 – “Why would you design a page for 5 seconds? New users”

25:47 –  user testing  and demographics

28:10 – Talking smack… but not throwin’ down … on fivesecondtest.com

29:45 – A / B testing

30:32 – http://uservoice.com/

31:29 – Basic training on how to create / analyis a user test

32:45 – Three waves of web design focus

34:04 – science journalism comic

36:10 – Changing goals interior to websites -searching vs. finding

38:00 – Newman loses his brain

39:30 – fivesecondtest.com, ripping it?

42:30 – Smackdown Feng-GUI vs Fivesecondtest.com

43:50 – 6 revision post on Introduction text and Headlines

44:52 – a/b test on the Bella Florals with headline change

48:00 – Gaming the system.

48:50 – We are Attention Wranglers

49:40 – Attention / Conversion funnel

50:10 – Elevator pitch to the girl

50:40 – one goal per page?

52:50 – Wrapping it up – Steven Pressfield, Alexander, Joe Rogen

Categories: podcasts Tags: ,

Viewing Your Website as a Game Users Can Win

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

When we were kids, nobody said “I want to grow up to be a retail manager!”. We all wanted to make video games, play with dolphins, go to space, and yes, be a fireman. It’s funny then that most of us never do any of these things. And the joke’s often on the guy who makes video games judging by the horror stories.

I think it’s something in the hormones that scramble those inner-kid dreams. About the time responsibility kicks in, that’s when it vaguely dawns on you that your chances of hanging from a helicopter with a machine gun shooting ninjas is probably not going to be how you make a living.

Bummer.

But that doesn’t mean that we give up on fantasy altogether. The numbers don’t lie. Video games did $18.58 billion in sales in 2010. That’s nearly as much as movies ($10.46 billion) and music ($9.2 billion) combined.

We are, it seems, a nation of High Scorers.

Why in the world would we all start playing games? There must be a million reasons but one of them has to do with how easy it is to achieve a win state.

If you think back to the days of 80s arcades (kids, ask your parents) the games were challenging.


Mom! I need another quarter!

But as any parent will tell you, times have changed. It’s not about eating quarters anymore.

John Cheese is a parent of two kids and a hilarious writer for Cracked. Yes, that Cracked. The one-time magazine competitor to Mad Magazine it now exists as a hilarious daily comedy website. Mr. Cheese wrote an article titled “5 Crucial Lessions Learned by Watching Kids Play Video Games“. They are:

  • They don’t tolerate losing so modern games just let them win
  • They have no tolerance for grinding
  • If they want to read they’ll buy a f*cking book
  • They press ‘y’ to skip as fast as they can
  • Don’t like it? Break it.

For our web usability purposes, it’s a fantastic list and worth look at in some detail.

The mindset of a gamer is that they are about to do something they enjoy. Whenever it seems like work, they quit. Screw the princess. Just, screw her. They turn into Cartman, “Screw you guys, I’m going home!“.

It’s like this sign goes off in their head.

They came for this:


No, Who DAT!

And instead got:


Oww! It hurts!

The same thing goes with your website.

Users enter with a win-state in mind. What that win state is depends on what your website is about.

The win-state for this website is for you to read an article, listen to a podcast, and to make a comment if you feel so inclined. There’s nothing financial at stake, so for us, it’s all about communicating our ideas and research.  For you, if you’re here, your win-state is most likely to find out something specific. You could be into web usability and want to see the article about the web usability tools comparison I wrote last week.  You could be interested in web usability podcasts and feel like giving ours a go. But your goals – because of how you got here – are likely related to our content.  If you find what you’re looking for, we both win.

If you’re an e-commerce site, you want people to buy things.  If you’re a hotel, you want people to book a room.  If you’re a zoo you want people to buy tickets. If you’re a school you want contact information or a donation. If you’re a political campaign you definitely want a donation.  And so on…

These are win-states.

Let’s look at that list again.

  • They don’t tolerate losing so modern games just let them win
  • They have no tolerance for grinding
  • If they want to read they’ll buy a f*cking book
  • They press ‘y’ to skip as fast as they can
  • Don’t like it? Break it.

The second, third, and fourth points are similar in the fact that they all have to do with skipping the boring parts to get back to the game.  “Grinding” is the process of doing some repetitive task (like farming) to get a reward (like gold) so you can achieve some task (buy better weapons). Many RPGs make the player have to do these repetitive tasks in order to get powerful enough to continue with the story.

If the game were porn, grinding would, counter-intuitively, refer to the talking parts.

It’s a bad thing.

Long passages of text and cut-scenes also get in the way of the action.  There’s a reason there hasn’t been a new Metal Gear game in a few years. The series was famous for its long cut scenes. And when I say long, I mean LOOONNNNGGG. Each game must have 30-40 hours of cut scenes in it.  Even if it’s only 10, it still feels like 30-40. It’s a great story but honey badger don’t care.

Instead the best selling games these days are all about co-op play that involves no story at all… just running around and blowing up your friends. I’m, of course, talking about the Call of Duty and Halo franchises. Both of their most recent titles sold over 8 million titles each in their first month.  That’s $1 billion in sales in 30 days between two games.  That should tell you something. And that something is: get to the point.

And that’s what the final lesson from the article is about, “Don’t like it? break it.” This is where games and websites part ways.  In a game, it’s possible to play it in an unintended way and still derive some fun out of it.  Websites, not so much.  When a website doesn’t deliver, the user is gone.  They don’t want to suffer. And chances are, what you’re offering isn’t completely unique. Because if it’s hard to get to your menu on the website, there are always other restaurants.

Games and websites share the same goal: helping the user achieve a win-state.

In both, the goal should be clearly defined:

  • Game: Drive to the liquor store, meet up with Marty then head to the docks and shoot that rat Marla in the face and get away without getting caught.
  • Website: Request a missionary.

Then you should make it as easy for them to do so.

I think you’ll see in that above link that all you have to do is fill out the form and they’ll mail you your own personal missionary.

A win-state, indeed.