This is what your UI should learn from videogames

The videogame industry is a huge one that moves well over a billion dollars in revenue every year. This is no coincidence. Humans spend as much money as they can in their own leisure time. We always have done. It's the main reason why we have been collectively drinking alcohol for centuries and enjoying night outs. It's why we gamble, why we get together and -as far as i'm concerned - leisure is the biggest force driving human relations around.

But how did we get to spend so much in Videogames? I must say i used to be a properly huge fan. I mean like properly spending as much time as I could as a child in front of my old Playstation and play for hours on weekends. When friends came along we would play Fifa '98 for hours on edge, by pairs or single 1vs1 tournaments we would spend hours and hours in front of the TV just chilling and playing sport games.

User experience by default

You don't create a multi billion dollar industry by coincidence. This has been well thought out and well planned out for at least the last 30 years. And I can say I've learned more about art, design, user interface and user flows from videogames than in my entire carreer in university as a computer engineer student. It's time to face it, if you think that playing videogames is an absolute waste of time, you haven't been paying attention.

Lets think for example about the FIFA Videogame franchise. Playing football is one thing, but managing to "pretend" to play football with a controller is a completely different thing. If you take a look at the design effort put into these videogames you can properly see what i'm talking about.

Throughout the entire saga, the FIFA development team managed  to properly create innovative ways of playing a videogame. Of properly transmitting the feeling that you get when you are watching a football match over the TV straight into your console... for you to command. 

NBA Live also managed this. And this is something that all super productions and triple A games - those games with budgets that are as big as a Holliwood movie - have managed. Their teams are experts at making you enjoy every mechanic , every puzzle, every action that you have to do in the game. How else can you transmit the feeling of watching (and actually playing) a FOOTBALL game with a simple playstation controller? - I can tell you the answer - the only way is to do so with a devoted team of people that think every aspect of your product and make the look and feel incredibly responsive.

The playstation dual shock controller is by far one of the best designed game controllers of all time. Handles are comfortable to use and have been placed in a position that fit nicely and comfortably in your hand. Good grip. The bottom button has a sort of a trigger feeling, making these buttons very enjoyable and adequate for first person shooting games. Whenever i'm using one of these game controllers I feel that the controller is playing with me, helping me get to the place I want to get to. The actions you can do in the game are all intuitive, and in some way they have some sort of resemblance - or intuitive logic - built in, so it always feels easy ,comfortable and fun to use.

Ok. but what does this have to do with my app or project?

This isn't something casual that existed because of how human nature is. This is a well thought and well carried plan that has been designed in response to human behaviours and human preferences. And there is a lot of it to take into your project. With technology growing faster and faster into our lives in these modern days. We - as developers and entepreneurs - have to keep investigating in our influx of people and design ideas so we can make more usable products. A badly designed product might not go anywhere, but a proper design (such as the one that videogames offer) might create it's own market.

Videogames didn't exist, but once they started rolling, they created their own industry, with their own market quota and their own share. And it has gotten HUGE. In the latest League of Legends tournament - one of the biggest and most followed videogames around - that took place in Korea, This game managed to fill a 60 thousand people stadium and make the band Imagine Dragons play on the final show

I don't know if you are into music or not, but Imagine Dragons are the kind of group that are invited into big things that pay out a lot of money and have big assistance. This stadium is bigger than many of the stadiums in the Premier League, and South Korea filled it with a huge number of young fans. For me this is not unexpected. League of Legends is a properly designed game with over 10 years of experience in developing their own storyline - game design and mechanics. You might like it or not - i'm not a huge fan particularly - but this is something that even haters will agree on. The game is properly presented and shows to their fanbase it's own characteristics.

Lets now take a look at how the Spanish Tax Agency website looks like.

agencia tributaria

Oh my FUCK. I've never seen so many buttons and actions put together one next to the other with no apparent reason and - I cannot stress this enough - zero fucks given about user experience . Great, and i'm supposed to pay taxes using this thing? No wonder why tax evasion rates in my country are so high. 

Navigation menus change depending on the section of the website that you are viewing. There are many different buttons enabled to do for the same thing. There has been no care taken for user experience and for the end user to have an easy and intuitive access to information. If you start in one webpage, you can travel through multiple sections of that same webpage and by the time you click "back" in your screen, there will be some script that re forwards you to the next webpage - effectively preventing you from intuitively cancelling any action that you were doing by mistake.

The public administration spent millions of euros in developing one unified login system for all citizens - and even though it works decently and I cannot complain having seen so many countries that have it worse - it still fails to be as relevant as they intended it to be. Throughout my entire life I've had to fix the code situation to retrieve lost information so many times. However, i've never lost nor have I ever forgotten my facebook password. Is this a coincidence?

It isn't. The first is a clear example of knowing that whatever you do, you can only pay taxes online via that website. So there has never been any need for proper innovation on the design or overall user experience. Facebook on the other hand, knows that the minute people start having problems retrieving their passwords and getting their login credentials, people will just skip and join some other new social network.

everything is an example nowadays

And perhaps, if you can't see the beauty hidden in this, then you might also not be paying attention either. In the videogame industry there are plenty of examples

Another example I'd like to talk about here is Overwatch by Blizzard.  If there is something I can say in favor of Blizzard is that they sort of resemble the Apple of videogames. Whatever they create they create precisely and you might enjoy it or not, but their products are in the end well tested well implemented and well thought games. This one has it's user interface properly crafted. All information is properly displayed in screen with high level detailed graphics. Again, you may or may not like videogames, but the fact that they exist is proof that when something is properly crafted, it will create it's own market.

Fortnite is another great example of a well planned product.  This is a game i don't really enjoy at all , but I cannot stop praising how easy and simple it is, and how it has been crafted with the idea of simplicity and "available for all" in mind. This game has been developed for all platforms, like windows, mac, xbox, Android and iOS playing on the same servers , on the same games at the same time. I bow towards this unpredecented victory. I can only praise it's virtues. From a technical point of view it is indeed a wonderful thing to do. To encourage all users from all cross-platform devices to play together. 

If the Spanish taxing agency had thought about this type of strategy when developing their online infrastructure. If only they had had this in mind, they would probably manage to collect more taxes than the way they currently do it.

Keeping this in mind

Whenever I talk about these sort of things with my clients, I always give the same advice. Make your app beautiful and fun to use and intuitive. The easier, the better. The happier your users will be and the more money you'll make. 

It's a fact, even UBER knows this. And even using uber's interface is fun. As you wait you can see in real time the car moving through it's own path until it reaches you and picks you up. This small thing might look like a joke, but make no mistake. This is again a well thought user interface element that not only shows transparency to the user, but it "removes" the "waiting for the taxi without knowing when will it come" and replaces it with a "video" of the driver coming towards you to pick you up on a map. It helps you calculate how much time will it take for him or her to reach you, and above all it keeps the user completely engaged in their app.


This is the kind of innovation that you want your users to have. People hate waiting, so anything that your app makes the user wait should be carefully planned. In the recent versions of the FIFA franchise, you can play minigames that require you to use the real game skills while the main game loads. In games such as Overwatch or Player Unkwown Battlegrounds , you are taken into a "waiting screen" where you can shoot things and move around to try several game mechanics while the game is loading. This is a fact, if a user has to wait for over three seconds to get something from your app, the chances of that user from loosing focus into doing something different are very high.

If you take a look at this gameplay example, you can easily see how the game interface is always clearly giving out the information you need to know to have a complete idea of what's going on. You can see many clicks and buttons everywhere, but overall you can feel that the design team has put a lot of effort into how this game looks and makes you feel.

Now let's take a look at the spanish police website. Thanks to new technologies you can now report a crime online from your browser. You just need to make a couple of clicks and....

Oh wait, I have to read all this? and where is the report a crime button?  And furthermore, whenever I click on the options, nothing seems to change or to indicate me what I am reporting

This is very unappealing. Again, they know there isn't any other police office you can call to, so they don't need to take care of user experience - and they can just make it as tedious as possible. 

Unless you are a government agency - which I don't think so - or you are the only player in the game (which is even harder). Pay special attention to these things. Your apps and designs must be flawless and magnificent. They must invite the user to be a part of what you want. For example ,an app like the latest REVOLUT bank app has been thought with this in mind

Whenever I see my revolut account. It makes me want to spend money using their app so that I can fiddle around my expenses in their cool spending-over-time graph. It's so well thought. It will tell me instantly on my phone pocket whenever something has been charged into my bank account. This system makes everything feel so much safer that at the end of the day you know that's the kind of feeling that you want to have when dealing with "money".

And that is overall the effect that makes these apps like Uber or Airbnb or Youtube so great and downloaded. It's the reason why so many people use them. If you want your users to download and user your software, give them a good reason, because if you don't, they won't use your software at all. (unless they have to by force because there is no other option).

Be the first to comment

Our reader's favorite picks

Subscribe to our newsletter

Let us send you spam from time to time. Yes, it is a bit of Spam, but interesting Spam, supreme quality spam to be honest!

Email *