Is It Fun?

Hitcher Some of you know I am working for a startup called Hitchery creating a social/spatial/mobile game. I am tasked with creating a simple and engaging user experience. As a UX Designer during my day job, I have ample experience with creating easy to use interfaces, interactions, what-have-you’s. Hitchery presents me with a new kind of challenge that I have no experience building, yet am increasingly fascinated by.

Is it fun?

It has been a guess and check process since I became involved in the project. That’s not to say that it isn’t progressing, because it most certainly is. The trouble is that it is difficult to measure fun. The methodology isn’t all that much different than it would be on a standard project.

  • Speak to users;
  • Come up with some wild idea which we presume would add to the fun-factor of those users;
  • Implement;
  • Conduct usability test (and fun testing?);
  • Fix pitfalls, bugs, usability issues;
  • Then do it all over again.

The problem comes in between the fixes and the iteration. Did we actually add any value to the game or just add complexity? It’s hard to tell on a small scale.

Maybe engagement is somehow correlated to fun. This was a hypothesis that I quickly learned would not work. My thinking was this: What is it that would make a user open thn app during their idle time? What would make the user go out of their way to stop their lives to open the app and engage? What would engage users enough to transcend their mobile experience, and explore the game through their browser through the web interface?

Solution for measurement: Notifications. We could test the quality of key events in the game by measuring the engagement based on notifications that are sent out about game occurrences that affect the user. Notifications of passive events that occur in the game while they are not using it will possibly increase the chance that they will be reminded of its existence. This is no measure of engagement or even desirability, but rather succumbing to an alert that demand attention. This type approach has two sides:

  • Either the user opens the app upon receiving a notification and enjoys what they see;
  • Or they become increasingly annoyed at the notifications because the experience tied to it is predictable and not satisfying.

Once again. It doesn’t solve the problem or measure the solution accurately until the app is truly fun.

Iterations and time will tell. Until then, it’s a race to iterate quickly with a guess and check philosophy where the guess is incredibly subjective to a small sample size. Once my experience in this domain grows, I will hopefully be able to make better educated guesses and ultimately come to solutions more effectively and efficiently.

One Comment

  1. Mike Altman (@mikealt)
    August 12, 2011

    Is it fun? Is fun even a measurable metric? #ux

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