'Games are becoming more Web-like, and the Web is becoming more game-like.' This is the point presented in Anne Miles' article called What Web Designers Can Learn From Video Games, and considering the developments in gaming technology that allow for online access and the improvements in the web's interactive elements, this insight appears aptly descriptive of the design evolution that is taking place right in front of us.
Elements of gaming are increasingly present in web pages. Take Miles' example of the format of Yahoo answers. When a user provides the inquisitor with the answer he thinks is best, the user earns credibility points in reward of her 'win' that allow for her to access more features within the system. This kind of incentive-driven behavior is helping websites become more engaging and more likely to lead the user down the funnel to the ultimate point of conversion. Below are some more ways sites have integrated (video) gaming elements to improve user experience and create a more intuitive environment for the user.
'In considering game interfaces, a Web designer needs to be acutely conscious of their project's context and their client's goals,' says Miles. Unlike video games, efficiency should take precedence over elements of entertainment when creating a successfully functional website. But when it comes to mapping out the layout of a website, the hub-and-spoke approach of video games can be appropriately applicable. Selecting one application that leads to another allows users to focus on one task or chunk of information at a time, making it more comprehensible and organized in their minds. Integrating this kind of layout should also take into consideration the different types of needs from different types of users and build the site out accordingly.
Another engaging element of video games worthy of web integration is the use of customized graphics. In some video games, the loading screen is often designed to match the theme of the game, which continues to keep to the player engaged during the wait. This practice can be transposed to web design by creating functions, pop-up loading screens and 404 pages that visually support the look of the site and keep the user interested.
Video games and websites face a similar challenge in that they both strive to be intuitive and quickly comprehensible. One way video games have been successful in this endeavor is by using different cursors for different functions. For example, some RPG games use a hand when the object it is hovering over can be picked up. This same approach in web design can help guide users to where they can click to continue or hover for more information.
Icons are used heavily throughout video games to quickly communicate different functions. We have seen this same reliance on icons in the development of web applications, and as the line between websites and web applications continues to blur, icons are used increasingly in web design as well. There are often cases where icons and symbols communicate the function much more instantaneously than words. They also make a site more user-friendly and easier to navigate while giving it a cleaner appearance.
When giving a web user options from which to choose, many of the effective layouts in gaming can be applied to make the process more engaging and interactive. Options menus in the form of carousels, sliders menus and context menus can achieve a game-like feel that encourages the user to keep 'playing.'
See? Web design really can be all fun and games. In fact, borrowing these ideas from gaming can help make sites more intuitive, more user-friendly and more successful in engaging the user to the point of conversion. Make your site's goals your users goals, and encourage them to play. It's a win-win situation.