Notes from “Add Some Xbox to Your UX”

Presenter is Josh Knowles, a freelance designer who has worked on both game designs and other application design (

Abstract: Tricks and techniques from the game design world can be applied to non-games — social apps, creative tools, etc. — to improve user experience, user enjoyment, and results. We’ll look at traditional UX in a new light: from the perspective of games and gamers (and zombies, aliens, and goombas).


  • How to get people to sign up for something or participate in something?
    • Often, approaches to UX for these things tends to be a bit dry
    • The idea is to create passion in users to get them to want to participate
  • Game design is starting to work its way into other things now
    • American Idol
    • Million’s Poet
    • Toyota Prius efficiency leaves in the dashboard
    • Target checkout terminals – grades/scores
  • Game design can be a big part of interaction design, but right now it’s often a novelty and not something core to design
  • Games take a task and apply rules to give the participants enjoyment and satisfaction
    • Classic arcade games are this boiled down to essentials – basic tasks with applied rules and risk/reward structures
    • Galaxy Zoo; Solar Stormwatch – astronomical phenomena turned into a game
    • Google Image Labeler – the timed tagging and matching tags from two random strangers
    • Faux stock markets
    • (my note) is kind of game-ish
    • Slashdot comment moderation and granting mod points to random users to help improve comment displays to random users (and Karma)
    • StackOverflow applies this to Q/A (10 points to rate up, 100 points to rate down, 200 points to see fewer ads on site, 1k points to delete questions)
    • thesixtyone – music filtering system
    • Foursquare, Gowalla, and MyTown (duh)
  • Basic concepts
    • Points (especially public points and high scores)
      • Number of friends
      • Percentage completion of participation (Shelfari, LinkedIn)
    • Badges and Achievements (specific defined activities)
    • Unlockables (site or application features you receive as a reward for participation)
      • Individual unlockables versus global unlockables
    • Game boards
      • Visual representations of what’s available or what you can do
  • You can learn from:
    • Classic video games
    • Board games
    • Sports
  • Basic game concepts have universal appeal and people can recognize them quickly
  • Education (games are excellent teachers)
  • Invitation (give users an explicit invitation to participate – these are ways to nudge users towards certain actions)
  • Pitfalls
    • Don’t use points in a way that will distract users from what’s most important on the site
    • Don’t put a number on a bad behavior
    • Don’t oversimplify what’s important to your service
    • Don’t let people game the system – avoid anything that can be automated to success (challenging to avoid)
    • Avoid blocking people in to the point where they can’t build on top of your service or innovate new ways to use it (Twitter)
  • Reasons to do this stuff
    • Educates your users and makes them better users
    • Creates better differentiation for users
    • Users are more willing to collaborate

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