Chapter 2 – How people really use the web
In Part 1, we learned about usability and the importance of self-evident UIs. In order to create self-evident UIs, we need to understand how people actually use software.
People quickly scan everything and click the first thing that grabs their attention. They don’t treat the web like books, they treat it like billboards flying 60 miles an hour.
It helps to imagine the frantic user instead of the rational user because our users are going to be more frantic than rational in the way they use our site.
Facts of human psychology for the web:
- We don’t read pages, we scan them. (Articles make us more likely to read, but we still spent a lot of time scanning instead.) We tend to focus on the task at hand, our personal interests, or hardwired words like “Free”, “Sale”, “Sex”, or our name.
- We don’t make optimal choices. When scanning, we don’t choose the best option but the first reasonable one because of time constraints and effort required for weighing options.
- People don’t want to take the time to learn something, they’d rather play around with it and see if it works (Very important principle to remember in game dev)
- Even skilled users have gaps in their knowledge they don’t even realize because it has always worked for them, so they didn’t need to understand it.
- We seldom look for a better way once we found one that works.
Moral of the story is that people want to browse lazily. They often try to do something and do it quick.
Encourage finding optimal strategy
It’s worth it for us to make sure users find the best way to do something and don’t muddle through:
- They’ll find what they want quickly which is good for them and good for us.
- There’s a better chance they’ll understand all our site has to offer instead of just what they’re looking for.
- You have a better chance of steering them where you want as a designer.
- They’ll feel smarter and more in control, bringing them back later. If they struggle, another site will build it better and you’ll be left in the dust.
Advice for game developers
A lot of this is relevant for game developers, too. In games, we need to remember how human psychology when teaching players. Most players don’t want to sit through tutorials. They’ll scan them and have no idea what to do.
Several players will play around, find something that works, and stick with it even if it’s not optimal. In Xenoblade 2, I skimmed through the tutorials and was unable to read them again. I figured out a way to get through a lot of the game, but it wasn’t until I read online how the intriguing strategy was really supposed to work.
Eventually, players will reach a point in the game where this strategy no longer works, but now it could be hard for them to catch up to proper strategy. I’ve done this before. When I was younger, I played through Final Fantasy X relying on Yuna for summoning and dealing massive damage (a first-order optimal strategy). Eventually, I got stuck on a boss halfway through the game because I couldn’t rely on summons. I ended up restarting the game because I couldn’t win.
As game designers, it’s our job to encourage them to find the right ways to play our game to get maximum enjoyment out of it. A large part of that is teaching them through the user interface and keeping the player in flow.