It’s time for a short update on my thinking about Playful IAs (the topic of my Euro IA Summit talk). One of the under-served aspects so far is the actual user experience of an architecture that is playful.
Brian Sutton-Smith describes a model describing the ways in which games are experienced in his book Toys as Culture. I first came across this book in (not surprisingly) Rules of Play. He lists five aspects:
- Visual scanning
- Auditory discrimination
- Motor responses
- Perceptual patterns of learning
Of most importance to my subject is the 5th one.
Game design, like the design of emergent IAs is a 2nd order design problem. You can only shape the user’s experience indirectly. One of the most important sources of pleasure for the user is the way you offer feedback on the ways he or she has explored and discovered the information space.
Obviously, I’m not saying you should make the use of your service deliberately hard. However, what I am saying is that if you’re interested in offering a playful experience on the level of IA, then Sutton-Smith’s perceptual patterns of learning is the best suited experiential dimension.
2 thoughts on “The experience of playful IAs”
Simply put, the concept of “rewards” is quite blatantly not present in most common web UX designs. Many designers think that incorporating playfulness in their design is not professional or not wanted by the user because the user is attempting to complete some “serious work”. But even rewarding intrinsically, causing subconscious, positive responses in the sense of “I’m enjoying this and would like to continue using this software” has a beneficial effect. Kathy Sierra coined a great way of expressing this: the user needs to feel like he or she is “kicking ass”. And you can only feel like you’re kicking ass if there’s some kind of barrier that you feel like you’re overcoming through your actions. So an information system should be designed to present that, even if it’s an illusion.
So far, I have been unsure if I should include stuff on flow and Sierra’s kick ass curve in the mix. But you’re right that a large part of the enjoyment and pleasure in games comes from a feeling of increasing mastery. For that to occur, there needs to be a balance between the challenges offered and the skill of the user.
I want to steer clear of recommending to make your functional app more challenging than it needs to be for the sake of a more ‘game-like’ feel. I think I do need to touch upon the subject of flow and what makes games pleasurable some more.
I’m circling this notion of doing a lot more with feedback. Basically I think we shouldn’t be fiddling too much with the input side of things but on the output side there’s a lot to be gained. Unobtrusively offering feedback on a number of metrics that allow the user to come up with his own goals. In that light, I think I’ll need to reconsider my earlier comments on LinkedIn’s profile completeness bar…
Thanks again for the valuable comments. Keep ’em coming!
Comments are closed.