Monday, December 17, 2007

Engaging User Creativity: The Playful Experience

Playfulness in design influences user behavior ...

"With so many choices as to how we can spend our time in the digital age, attention is becoming the most important currency. In today’s splintered media environment, new digital products and services must compete with everything under the sun, making differentiation key to developing an audience that cares, invests, and ultimately drives value.

What makes a person want to use one particular digital product or service over its competitor? What makes one user experience more engaging, interesting, or compelling than another? An often overlooked, under-appreciated, and rarely measured component of user experience is playfulness. The digital space is conducive to play—exploration, imagination, and learning. And many successful digital products are built for play or incorporate play into their interaction design. No matter how important our jobs, serious our responsibilities, or stiff our personalities, all people need to play—whether we admit it or not. (Is the boss looking?)

Playfulness, like usability, refers to a quality of user experience that can span many disciplines—information architecture, information design, interaction design, and graphic design. In our minds, however, many of us have relegated play to the realms of gaming or kids’ stuff and don’t consider play daily when designing. Though, in the digital space, satisfying the desire to play can be integral in determining the success or failure of a digital product or service. So it’s time for user experience designers to take play seriously. (And stop being so darn boring.)

The Elements of Playful UX

As a starting point, let’s loosely define playfulness in user experience as those elements of a digital design that engage people’s attention or involve them in an activity for recreation, amusement, or creative enjoyment.

Using this admittedly broad definition, it’s easy see that more than just branding determines a digital product’s playfulness. A host of other factors influence playfulness as well, including a product’s overall purpose, technological features and functionality, and how people use the product. So how does playfulness manifest itself in a digital user experience?


Often when we discuss playfulness as part of user experience, we first see it as an element of branding. And there is no doubt that branding has an important role in determining how engaging an experience can be. It sets people’s expectations. It tells them: “Hey! This is going to be fun.” If a company’s identity is whimsical or crafted to appeal to kids, its overall branding package might include such visual cues as bright colors, asymmetrical shapes, humorous text, or cartoonish images. For example, as Figure 1 shows, the look and feel of the Pixar Web site lets you know they’re a company with a playful attitude."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

Pixar - Usability, User Interface Design



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