Things Board Games Can Teach UX Designers

Digital products and board games use a lot of the same concepts that are directed at getting new users, and new players started as quickly as possible. Both face the challenge of getting new people interested before they get frustrated and leave for other options. The best representatives of the two worlds provide an easy way to learn basic rules of use without having to go through long instructions. The best board games, like digital products, provide their rules and principles in ways that are both straightforward and easy to remember.

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the essential principles used in board games that help new players learn to play. Some of the UX design agencies are already applying these principles to their work, while others are still discovering this fantastic source of inspiration. Board games can teach quite a bit about how people learn user interfaces. If you apply these principles to your design process, you can come up with great ideas and solutions for better and more effective digital product designs.

Quick Start

One of the most important guidelines for both digital products and board games is getting people started fast. As you may know, people don’t like learning how to play new games. They just want to play. While reading instructions and learning to play is cumbersome, learning the rules as quickly as possible is important, otherwise, the player may lose patience and leave the game. The tutorial period should be minimized to keep a player’s interest. It’s also essential that the game itself is rather simple and that the challenges lie within the gameplay – not through learning its rules.

It is similar to digital products. Users don’t want to waste time learning all the combinations and their outcomes in a website or app. They often start using a digital product out of necessity. They want quick solutions to real problems – your product or service is, therefore, a means to an end at best. The quicker users start using a digital product and find solutions to their particular problem, the better it is for you. Websites tend to be easier because all the links and necessary steps are in front of the user. However, when it comes to apps, they require some mastery, even if minor. People aren’t very patient in general, so it’s essential to get them started as quickly as possible.

Simple Setup

Each time you play a board game, it has to be set up. While setups are mostly simple, there may sometimes be things that require turning to the rulebook. Such items include:

  • Amount of cards each player starts the game within Uno;
  • Number of $500 bills each player receives at the beginning of a Monopoly game;
  • Number of armies a player gets in Risk if you have a three-player party.

Good games have a Setup section at the very front of their rulebooks. Some even have images added to the instructions, like in Monopoly City, for example, which further boosts the setup process.

Speaking of digital products – mobile apps in this case – they only require initial setup. Saving preferences, beginning with the most often used settings, adapting to users’ actions, learning from their behavior – all of that can help significantly reduce the need for setup. The great thing is that your UX agency can do all of that during the research and testing phases, well before moving on to creating a product’s design.

darts, dart, game

Simplicity of Actions

Starting quickly depends on the complexity of the game. Usually, rulebook reading is handled by one player, because the basic rules are understandable and explainable to the rest of the party. Many board games also have reminder cards that can be used to refresh the players’ memory and know what to do next. Although such cards could be helpful, if players always have to get back to them, it means that the game is way too complicated.

Digital products usually are much more complicated, but simple basic rules allow users to start quickly even without reading any additional instructions. If the product or service is designed well, users learn more sophisticated functions over time when they are used to the digital product and want to look into some more advanced aspects.

Short Notes Rule

Reading instructions is annoying, but necessary. The best rulebooks have basic guidelines in the front pages so that players can start the game and learn other things in the process. But, specific situations may occur during the game, prompting players to recheck the rulebook. Take Monopoly, for example, you don’t need to read about getting out of jail. The game’s rulebook has “jail” rules in the form of a brief note, so you can easily find out how this works.

It’s the same with digital products. While websites are in general clear and intuitive, when it comes to apps, you might want to add additional notifications and notes that will guide the user through the interface and functions, while keeping them from reading the FAQs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Learn

Board games are spread all over the world. Take the classics: chess, checkers and Go – they don’t have many rules, but they have been around for centuries and are as popular as ever. While there are many different types of board games that may include sophisticated plots, simple problem solving, logic training, and other things, the best of them try to get the player into the thick of play from the get-go.

It’s all about human behavior, so there’s a lot to learn from board games in terms of user experience design. Don’t shy away from learning new things from unexpected areas or even industries. The better the understanding of user behavior, the better user experience you can create.

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