A while ago during an interview I was asked a rather simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer, ” Why do you smash?” which had a part two, “Why is it that others smash”. In terms of Hulk accounts, this is usually a discussion as to why the person “smashing” felt a reason to say something, and in most cases its to express frustration.
This frustration, this reason that makes people so outrageously angered that they actually choose to set up ridiculous twitter accounts with ridiculous self made rules is the kind of thing that usability and User Centered Design was specifically created for. An actual science made to help people feel more calm, more happy, and less angry when using a product whether it be a high end gaming console or something tiny like say a toothbrush. If wishing to go for the extreme then you would spend millions of dollars setting up fancy usability labs where people are paid to test products then the results are documented from multiple angles while even more fancy cameras are actually tracking your eye movements, searching for where your focusing your attention and if something in particular is causing discomfort. There’s other method, like the low end model where you are asking simple questions and seeking feedback on designs that you are planning to implement later on.
Every single company whether it be Microsoft or just some lowly studio that loves to make fancy U.i.”s in some form will be using usability. Every product that you are using from your internet browser , to your cellphone, to your breakfast will be using these practices. Even for the most crazed studios that rely on Moly-esk figures will *still* have some form of usability, and this years E3 has shown how vitally important these skills are needed before announcing a product.
The first rule of Usability is that the consumer is always right. Not the designers, not the engineers that dreamed up this product while in a drunk stupor, and most certainly not the higher ups that believe more in their bonuses then creating a safe happy atmosphere that make people want to work with them. No, you live by your consumers and you die by your consumers. If you don’t follow this line of thinking, just try to force something into an industry without properly checking or seeking as to how the industry and your consumers are going to react, then you are only going to cause yourself unnecessary burden. Nintendo proved the trend with how sluggish 3DS sales were at first and that trend sadly continued with the WiiU since it took so long for a proper line up of games to be available where as back when the DS first launched they were pretty much set after only a couple months.
The second rule of thumb is to never try to cause any form of miscommunication. This one is more on user perception of what you are trying to do. You need to keep things simple when necessary then give longer explanation if you need to. Stop any communication that to the user feels weird, “gimmicky”, or “scam-ish” because even if its not a gimmick or a scam, its still making the user *think* so and if your paying attention to the rules then rule number 1 is now in play so you need to change whatever is causing the problem immediately before it causes that unnecessary burden.
Rule number 3: Unpopular trends should not be associated with your product regardless of reason or circumstance. If a large percentage of your users hate your product because it does something that they hated for a long time because of how terrible it was with other products, then you should not be exploring this terrain. Rules number 1 and 2 are actually both in play with this, your causing miscommunication by not listening to their frustration, its like ignoring their beliefs or perceptions on the product / industry and naturally, this causes an immediate transfer to rule number 1.
There are a great multitude of rules for usability, but the last one I’d like to focus on for now is something I think everyone in the game industry has difficulty understanding the most,
Rule number 4: DO NOT CAUSE UNNECESSARY BURDEN
You have a budget for your product, your *deep* into spending that budget, you have set dates, made plans, if your were paying attention to your usability peeps then you would have been studying the ***** out of everything while prepping this product for launch, and you are dead set in everything at the moment. In a lot of ways this is a crunch period, a period where money is being spent, schedules are tight, and you need everything to work as planned or it could literally ruin the next 3 years or your products life and your job along with it. You do not need unnecessary burden, you do not need your time being wasted, you do not need indie devs upset, terrible miscommunication happening on a daily basis, you do not need disturbing reports on an hourly basis about your company policy and your sure as hell don’t need your competition feeding off of your mistakes then gaining your audience without placing in an insane amount of effort. Usability makes your life easier, your community happier, it saves you an excessive amount of money , and I for the life of me don’t understand how one of the largest tech companies in the world ( That has one of the best Usability Labs) doesn’t seem to understand Rules 1-4 this late into the game, or why they were celebrating a few months ago declaring an easy win over Sony when they are *clearly* now in last place just from breaking rule number 2.