OK, now that we’ve completed the Support Center redesign, it’s time for some fun. (Look, a blog named “Donuts” can’t be too serious all the time.)
I spend a lot of time thinking about how users work with our products. Sure, I know the layout and organization of our software, but some of our users don’t. When writing support articles or revising the microcopy in our user interface (UI), I put myself in the mindset of users who don’t spend as much time in the software as we LexBloggers do.
But I recently applied that thinking to another kind of user: the rogues and scoundrels who show up to my occasional game nights.
Different game, same rules
Sure, I know the layout and organization of my apartment, but some guests don’t. When people come over, I try to set things up to make the evening enjoyable and relaxing. Recently, this involves labeling the unique aspects of my home that a visitor wouldn’t understand without an explanation.
Many of the concepts that go into creating a good web UI can also apply to creating a seamless game night. Here are some of the UI rules that I’ve applied to my apartment:
Anticipate user needs
When showing up at the front door, some people will (politely) knock and then wait for an inebriated guest inside to yell, “It’s open!” With a note on the door (“Come In”), visitors can skip the unnecessary wait and walk right in.
Explain stuff new users won’t understand
Fitting with Seattle’s mandatory Socialist, Communist, Anarchist-vegan values, household waste gets sorted into recycling, compost, and landfill. My identical landfill and recycling bins sit side-by-side, so guests would often ask which is which. With a simple label placed on each bin, they know where to chuck the empty bottles of organic locally crafted gluten-free IPAs.
Confession: I stole an idea from an ex. The (L)andfill bin sits on the left. (R)ecycling is on the right.
Don’t make users search for stuff
“Where are the glasses?”
“Where are the plates?”
“Where are the titanium sporks?”
This grew out of a problem I faced when standing in other people’s kitchens: I don’t know where the hell anything is. And I don’t like rummaging through other people’s cabinets while they’re still in the house. So I often have to ask where every utensil or dish lives.
At my game nights, everything you need for enjoying tasty snacks sits out on the counters.
Pro tip: coffee mugs make great drink containers because they’re harder to spill than wine or pint glasses.
Put tools where people need them
If organic locally crafted gluten-free IPAs go in the fridge, bottle openers should be really close to that fridge.
OK, being lazy isn’t a rule for crafting user interfaces. But it gets to an idea that’s lost on many organizations: If you manually answer the same question over and over and over again, you’re doing something wrong.
Take this common game night scenario: at some point one or more guests will ask for the WiFi credentials. So I would have to walk over to the router and read off the key. Sometimes this would happen more than once a night.
The solution: notes with the WiFi information sitting on the game table.
Less thinking, more playing
OK, yes, some of these ideas are silly. But I’m a nerd who overthinks how people interact with stuff. And in the AirBnB age, labeling your home for guests does make some sense.
On game night, hopefully my guests spend less time figuring out how my apartment works, and more time eating tasty snacks, playing games, or sharing the best music videos.
Like web UIs, the goal here is the same. Less thinking, more playing.