User Experience

I spent a few happy weeks playing ‘Half-Life 2’ last year, and yesterday I bought Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for my Wii  and the differences are interesting.

Half-Life 2 was a beautiful game and I enjoyed every detailed scene. Metroid on the other hand doesn’t look as good.. it runs at 480p on my HD Television, and simply can’t match HL2’s level of detail.

But does it matter? Well not at all! The game play is very simple.. HL2 has excellent controls with the keyboard and mouse but it isn’t as easy as throwing the Wiimote and Nunchuck around. Metroid is just so easy to get into.

A while ago I saw a customer system based on Unix that they wanted to update to WinForms. What struck me was the simplicity and ease of this terminal services application: It only used a few colors, you could navigate quickly with the F keys, and there was no wait… the system was very responsive.

When you build a modern GUI application in WinForms, Java Swing or whatever there is much more you can do visually, but to what end?

I am not calling for a return to terminal services, but I feel we shouldn’t discard the simplicity that is the desire for most users out there. Most users really couldn’t care less if they have the ability to change the color of their toolbar.. they do care that they are able to finish their work for the day unimpeded by ‘IT issues’.

Nintendo made a very bold and praiseworthy statement by releasing the Wii. They were basically saying “The graphics are not important – the experience is important”. When designing our systems we should remember that a pretty prototype is no substitute for a system that real users can be productive and satisfied with.

2 thoughts on “User Experience

  1. Hey Andrew,

    Nice article.
    It is not just that old applications were more responsive, although they might have been 😉
    The people who were working with the old apps also were used to type ahead, they exactly knew how to fill the required fields (Name \t Surname \t \t Place of birth etc.) so the data could have been entered even before the form was shown.
    How will you regain that lost functionality?


  2. Very true.. these guys were productive because they could, as you say, ‘type ahead’. With the new Windows Forms features that now update your client with relative ease, the operator is now at the mercy of the ‘GUI Designers’ who probably want to make a bold statement for their career and change things around.

    I’m not sure you can regain that functionality.. frankly, technology should allow us to remove the need.. i.e. it should be possible to get someone’s phone number from the system they call you on. (I remember having to repeat my number to national telecom companies in two countries since they hadn’t worked out how to integrate this.)

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