The anticipation for a new Nintendo console was long overdue, so when I heard the announcement in October 2016 about the release of the Nintendo Switch, I knew it was something I had to get my hands on. The Nintendo Switch is a gaming console with a new concept; allowing a quick transition from a home console system to a portable on-the-go gaming experience. The Flexibility of three different modes; TV, Handheld and Tabletop mode mean you can take the console anywhere, and play with anyone. Providing new gaming user experiences makes it stand-alone from other gaming consoles.
The user experience of playing the Switch in TV mode has a sense of familiarity. In order to play games in this mode, the console is put into the dock, and linked up to the TV via HDMI. The games appear as they would on an Xbox, but with the Switch you have the flexibility in choice of how to hold and use the controllers. The Joy-Con controllers for the Switch have a unique controller design; they detach from each side of the console to make either one game controller or two separate pieces that can be used independently. This allows users to configure controllers for the best experience for different games.
For example, as you can see in the pictures, when playing a game such as ‘Just Dance’, users can detach a controller and use it as an individual piece, allowing them to wave this around to follow the dance moves.
In contrast, ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’, is a classic adventure game, and therefore the user experience is best with a one-piece game controller.
The Joy-Con controllers also have a feature called HD rumble, which offers users a haptic user experience, to feel different types of vibrations through the controllers. Games like ‘1-2 Switch’ have been specifically designed for the Switch, to incorporate these features into game-play. On a game called ‘ball count’ users estimate how many balls are in a box by tilting the controller and ‘feeling’ the balls move around in it. The closest player to guess the amount wins.
One downside of user experience on TV mode is that the games are designed for a smaller screen in Handheld and Tabletop mode, so switching to play the game to a larger screen such as a TV, causes the frame rate to noticeably drop and the game appears to lag compared to other modes. I found this can be off putting and for some may defeat the point of being able to play in different modes.
The unique feature about the Nintendo Switch is the new user experience element, that allows users to take this console anywhere and continue gaming on the move. by switching it into Handheld mode. To do this, you slot each Joy-Con controller into the side of the console to make, what appears like, a Wii U gamepad and then remove this from the dock. There is no need to shut down the console and reboot it to switch modes, as the game switches instantaneously, undisrupting the flow of gaming from one screen to another.
As a daily train commuter to and from work, it is great to be able to pick up from where I played the game the night before, and continue playing this on a journey. The Switch is also very quick to load, after turning the console on, no time is wasted waiting for the console to turn on and select a game, meaning users can get quickly engrossed in the user experience.
Another feature that enhances the user experience is the touch screen element that the Switch has on the user interface, which replicates a tablet like experience to navigate through the menu, select games and change profiles. Although most games on the Switch do not incorporate this touch element into the game itself, it is something I hope to see on games in the future.
A drawback of playing the game in Handheld mode on the move is that the Switch has a limited battery life and can’t be charged independently. The Switch can only be played for around 3-6 hours in Handheld mode, so users need to be wary about how many hours they can fit in gaming, without the console running out of battery.
Tabletop mode combines the mobility aspect offered by Handheld mode, as well as flexible controllers. What’s great about this mode is that you can take the Switch to a friend’s house or to family gatherings, and continue gaming together with multiplayer. This new user experience encourages multiple game play, as opposed to the familiar solo game play at home in the TV mode.
At the moment though, the kickback stand that props the console up on a surface is not very stable, especially when placed on an uneven surface. This limits where you can play in Tabletop mode, as standing the Switch on a surface like a bed or a sofa may cause this to fall over.
Overall, the new concept of the Nintendo Switch is something that is unique in design, and provides a fascinating new user experience for gaming. It has only been a couple of weeks since release date, and the advantages of being able to play games in various modes are evident. However, at the moment, there are a limited number of games available for the Switch, meaning we can’t see the full potential of the gaming user experience. Despite the drawbacks it currently has, we look forward to how Nintendo will fix these, as well as the games revealed in the coming months.
As a User Researcher, I often get to watch a product develop from an early stage low-fidelity paper prototype, to a final stage high-fidelity prototype, before the design gets developed into a live product. Therefore, I understand the importance of continually testing through the different stages of a product, and how valuable this can be for teams developing products.
Prototyping is a draft version of a product which allows users to explore ideas and the intention behind a design, before the designers invest time and money into further development. Prototypes allow us to show users what the experience will be like, from a ‘show’ don’t ‘tell’ perspective, presenting the opportunity for problems to be discovered early on, and therefore allowing time to change the design to ensure a good user experience.
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There is an ongoing debate around whether quantitative and qualitative methods are better. Quantitative research is good for finding out ‘How many’ or ‘How often,’ as it measures the incidence of findings in a given sample size. The findings are quantifiable and help make informed decisions about the impact of future developments. However quantitative research does not allow us to probe and understand why. Qualitative research on the other hand, uses a wide range of methods to gain insight into underlying user needs and behaviour which is not available in quantitative research. This can provide a sound base for further decision making. However, the in-depth approach of qualitative research limits us to small sample sizes meaning results are not quantifiable.
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Following on from our tips on building prototypes for testing, here we share some of the challenges which can come up while testing a prototype and how best to work around them.
Conducting usability testing can be challenging, especially when testing prototypes. This is because prototypes are not fully functional websites or applications and the level of detail within prototypes can range from simple paper prototypes to high-fidelity pre-launch prototypes. This article will discuss the challenges we face when testing prototypes from the point of view of a UX researcher and it will provide some tips that can make prototype testing more successful.
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In our roles as user experience practitioners, we are regularly asked to test with prototypes, ranging from low fidelity paper prototypes through to hi fidelity pre-launch fully interactive prototypes. Clients often ask how their prototype compares with others, and how different aspects will work with or affect the testing. So, here’s our top 5 tips for building a prototype to get the best out of the research.
Content and design
Let’s start with the content and design of the prototype. Although the level of detail that’s included in the prototype varies depending on the fidelity, at all fidelities the content and design needs to support what you are trying to find out.
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Whether you have or haven’t booked a seat reservation on a train, finding a seat is a frustration for many passengers. As a daily train commuter to and from work, this is something I, and many others around me, struggle with every day.
There are broadly two types of train passengers; one who has bought their train ticket in advance, along with a seat reservation on a specific train and one who has not got a reserved seat, or has been automatically given one in the booking process, but isn’t bothered about finding that specific seat.
Finding a seat should be a straight forward process for both types of passengers, either finding their reserved seat or finding an unreserved seat on the train, but it is not. And one of the key problems is the way reservations are displayed on trains. It may seem a small problem but with millions of passengers travelling by train every day the impact is huge, so how could current display methods be developed to improve the user experience?
In the article below we review the two main current display methods, electronic and paper, and consider ways to improve them.
With electronic displays, the users’ seat reservation along with their seat number is shown above the seat, for example, Fig. 1, displaying ‘Reserved from Sheffield- Newcastle’.
In 2015, UK shoppers spent more than £3.3 billion over Black Friday weekend, a rise of 31% on the previous year and many big name websites including Tesco, Argos and John Lewis couldn’t cope with the online traffic. With the growth of online shopping and more retailers taking part in this year’s Black Friday promotions, analysts were predicting a further increase of 25% in 2017 but early figures suggest this didn’t materialise.
While the marketeers continue to review the economic factors, we reviewed the way some clothing websites promoted their Black Friday deals. From our experience of user behaviour when shopping online, we noticed a few things they could have done to improve engagement and potentially increase sales.
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Payment option overload? How card payments and a digital selection process affects the usability of vending machines.
Most of us use vending machines and like the simplicity of popping a bit of loose change into a machine to get that much needed bottle of Coke.
But, we have all experienced that level of frustration when you fall short of change or the machine doesn’t accept the only pound coin left in your purse. Contactless payments and Apple Pay are becoming more widely used, for example on car parking ticket machines.
More recently, vending machines are now also being redesigned complete with a card reader to bring them into the 21st century. So how could the inclusion of card payments and a digital selection process on vending machines improve the user experience?
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Six of the team at SimpleUsability attended #NUX5 on Friday 7th October at the Northern College of Music in Manchester, which featured seven inspirational speakers from around the world sharing a variety of different UX topics.
Instead of the usual note-taking, SimpleUsability decided to try a more creative approach to capture the key features of each talk: Sketchnoting. Sketchnoting involves taking notes in a visual form that helps bring the notes to life, and helps people to remember the talk afterwards. Sketchnotes are also fun to share. In this article we share our Sketchnotes that were taken at NUX5, with key summarised points to explain the take away message from each talk.
On Wednesday 28th September, UX Sheffield was hosted at The Electric Works, and featured pioneer of usability Rolf Molich. Rolf, who has worked in the field since 1984, came to discuss ‘Myths about usability testing’.
‘5 users will find 85% of usability problems’
Rolf began the talk by discussing the myth, made famous by Jakob Nielson, that ‘5 users will find 85% of usability problems’. Rolf went on to explain how it is impossible to say you have found ALL usability problems, as some usability problems will be specific to certain types of users, and therefore are unlikely to be spotted with a small sample of users. Rolf suggested instead, rather, that ‘5 users are enough to drive a useful iterative cycle’, where the key usability findings will be discovered, as they will be applicable to the majority of your users.
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