INTERVIEW | UX in Esports

Not to be confused with UI (user interface design), user experience, often abbreviated to UX, refers to the process of enhancing user satisfaction by tailoring websites to improve usability and accessibility. Often overlooked in business, UX is imperative to ensure end-users receive a completely fluid and seamless experience when navigating through a site. After all, if a pop-up or border of ads blocks what you’re trying to do, wouldn’t you be tempted to just close the tab…?

In esports, an industry that thrives on impressive design and graphics, UX is a fundamental step to winning over users. If an esports website or app can’t provide a similar, responsive experience like the games these people are playing, then what’s the point?

Having worked on a number of esports projects across the last 12 months, we at Fast Web Media turn to Matt Salmon, our UX designer, to run us through his opinions, predictions and learnings on the importance of UX and web design in esports.

Q: So, why does UX matter so much in eSports?

People are now starting to see how investing more time in UX can really improve the success of a product or event, not just in esports. By giving a user a good experience, you reap many benefits and gains, from having an opportunity to reach out to a greater audience to saving money in other areas of investment.

Q: What would you say is the next big trend in web design?

Gamification has already started to be noticed and implemented around the web. Tinder is a great example of making a simple “yes or no” interaction more interesting by using swipe functionality rather than just clicking. Making a simple task a little more interactive will get a user’s attention. This is just one example, as it can be taken much further than just a simple swipe; challenges give the user a sense of achievement no matter how big or small.

Something else that I think is important and we will see more of is user responsive design. Adapting the design of a page to suit whatever device is being used is already a necessity, but this can go another level deeper. For example, the age range of people using a service like Netflix is vast, but the way a child wants to experience finding a show is different to how an adult does.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you take any inspiration from non-eSports/gaming platforms when considering UX for an eSports brand?

I usually look for inspiration from people who are trying to solve similar problems, even if it’s not in the same field. Dribbble is a good place to explore these, but there can be inspiration found everywhere. A great example is the Ballot Bin, it tackles littering by making the experience of throwing items away have a ‘competitive’ element.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of UX design in eSports?

The ability and knowledge of users in esports range massively. As we’ve already discovered at Fast Web Media, the audience in the esports industry is incredibly broad and more complex than could have ever been presumed. Finding the balance between making something that is enjoyable for an inexperienced user whilst not being tedious for someone who has been around the block is always a challenge. This is where user responsive design really comes into its own.

Q: Do you see any commonalities in design for eSports brands?

From a UX perspective, I’ve found that there’s been a lot of focus on experienced gamers who can just jump straight into a product and understand heavy terminology. This is perfect for the experienced gamer, however this web design may put off users with less knowledge.

In terms of look and feel, you tend to see a lot of items with a futuristic feel, sort of resembling how [he Space Race was marketed in the 50’s and 60’s, showing them to be pushing boundaries and outdoing competitors. Others brands tend to look back to retro games of the past like Pacman and Space Invaders, which gives a sense of heritage and knowledge that resonates with people, particularly older gamers. I think both of these are fairly obvious ways of tackling design for esports and although they work well, maybe something that breaks the mould a bit could help esports reach an even wider audience than it already has in recent times.

Q: Can you give us 3 core tips for improving eSports UX?

I don’t think these are esports specific, but rather general tips for improving UX:

  1. First of all, understand the problem you are trying to solve. Do plenty of research before jumping into a project. Always learn about the users.
  2. Always gain feedback and information from your users. How any user responds to something gives you a pointer on what to do next. Something that may seem logical and obvious to you might not be for your user, so sometimes admitting defeat on something and making a change for the better is required.
  3. Finally, something I picked up from NUX5: you don’t need to give the users everything straight away. You should think about the minimum viable experience to start with, such as not offering a lunch at a conference full stop instead of offering a bad lunch. Releasing more advanced updates little and often can stop UX from being rushed.

Q: With eSports having a massive global audience, what measures should be in place to ensure the UX is right for everyone?

The ideal for a global audience is to find solutions that transcend through different countries and cultures, but you need a willingness to adapt and change at any point and not stand still thinking a problem is solved. Adaptability is the key. A solution to a problem in one country creates a different problem in another country. Vigorous testing with real users helps to identify these issues quicker and allows you to create something that works globally.

Q: If you could change one preconception/misapprehension about UX, what would it be?

Personally, it’s the expectation of when and how UX and UI design should be implemented. Both UX and UI need each other to work well, but brands want to run before they can walk when it comes to design and web development. By implementing a well thought out UX process, the UI design process is eased and improved, allowing designers to make the most of the time they have on a project.

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