Showing posts with label Usability. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Usability. Show all posts

Why Draw Something Works

Drawing from bestofdrawsomething
The latest rage to hit the interwebs, as you all know, is OMGPOP's Draw Something (if you aren't familiar with it you can checkout my review of Draw Something on
According to their latest news, only 7 weeks after launching Draw Something was downloaded more than 35 million times and Zynga bought the company for $180 million.

We've seen it time and time again where a company takes an existing concept, that was not necessarily ever a big hit, puts their own twist on it, and the result is "overnight success". Google did it with search and Gmail (for example), Rovio did it with Angry Birds, and the list goes on... The OMGPOP story is far from an overnight success, as my good friend Shahar Nechmad noted in a recent post, but they definitely nailed it with Draw Something.

So what did OMGPOP do in Draw Something that caused this incarnation of pictionary to catch on so fast and turn into the amazing phenomenon that it became?

Here's my analysis.

Asynchronous playing - people love playing mobile games and they love playing with their friends. The problem with playing mobile games with your friends is that you typically need to all play at the same time, which is not very convenient when on a mobile device. You usually want to play on your phone when you have some spare time. In Draw Something the entire gameplay is based on asynchronous turns, so that whenever you want you can launch the app and play a round or two, even if your friend/s aren't currently online. When you finish your turn whatever you did is sent to wait for your friend. So you are playing with real people however you can always launch the app and get immediate satisfaction, even if nobody else is playing at that time. Even though it's asynchronous the game still lets you see what the other side experienced as they were playing, watching you draw. So you get the asynchronous game play without losing much of the real-time effect of playing with another live player.

Simultaneous games with several people - The downside of asynchronous games with real people is that you have to wait a lot between turns, till the other person finishes their turn and sends it back to you. The way OMGPOP solved that problem in Draw Something is by letting you play a lot of simultaneous games with many people.
When you complete a round with one person you don't have to wait around for the person to be online and play their turn, you just jump to another simultaneous game with somebody else. The game allows for enough games in parallel so that typical users will have enough games to play and not get bored waiting around. Since people are playing several rounds at once, each time you launch a round you first see the last drawing you drew for that user. That quickly reminds you where you left off and can continue playing from that spot.

Not being able to quit in the middle - Sometimes you run across players who don't really know how to draw well or are bad guessers. Draw Something is designed in such a way so that you can quit playing with anybody you don't want to play with, but the quitting point is at the end of a round. This subtle product feature keeps users engaged longer with the game than if you could just quit in the middle of a round just because the other user annoyed you ("can't you see that's a golf club???"). When you are in the middle of a round and get annoyed at the other user, you still have to complete the round (watch the user guess your word, watch them draw and try to guess, draw a new word). So effectively you can quit the round once you've finished drawing something. But don't you want to see if the user got your word? After all you just created this masterpiece, you don't want it to just disappear, never to be seen by anyone. Right? Ok, I'll go another round and give them another chance.... Not only does this create more activity within the system, it also give a chance for poor players to keep playing (and hopefully improve).

Limited set of letters to choose from - Not letting users just type in the entire word they are guessing, but forcing them to choose from a limited set of characters has 3 benefits. 1) It limits the possibilities for the curent word ("that looks like a dog but I don't have a 'd', I guess it's cat") which in effect increases the chances that people will guess the word, which makes both sides happier ("If he got the word I guess my drawing was good" and "I'm so smart I managed to guess that word even though it's an awful drawing"). 2) It helps with spelling problems, especially with an international userbase. 3) Finally, limiting the characters creates an opportunity for in-app purchases of bombs to eliminate characters and not lose your winning streak.

Easy random player hookup - Even if you don't know anybody who plays Draw Something you can just get the app, create a game, and find a random partner to play with. Since the game is asynchronous and simultaneous this really helped get the game started even when there weren't a lot of users using it yet (it was easy to seed the game with a small group of initial in-house players who took on the new users coming in).

Playing with actual friends - It's very easy to play Draw Something with people that you actually know, via Facebook Connect. And since the game is asynchronous you can even start playing with friends that don't even have the game yet. This both makes the game fun (it's more fun to play with somebody who you know in real life, vs somebody random) and makes the game viral. If you choose not to connect to Facebook you can still play against people you know via either their user name or email address.

Winning streaks + aligned goals - both players playing a round of Draw Something have the same goal, to guess the word. If I draw a good drawing and you guess it, we both win. Combine that with a winning streak counter and both sides have a mutual goal of keeping up that streak and not letting the other side down. This works exceptionally well when playing against friends you know via Facebook.

Not all the things Draw Something did were so outstanding, but these things are what caused the game to be both fun and viral among friends, which led to its great success.

Here are a couple things they didn't do that well on, and will hopefully improve in their upcoming versions:

The user interface when logging in is not standard and actually quite weird. Instead of asking for your email/username and password they ask for your email and username. I've seen more than a few people put in their email and then type their password in the username field (because it looks like it should be the password field) and what happens is that you now get a new username that is your password. Not cool at all.

They also screwed up the Facebook integration when you choose to sign in with a user name instead of using Facebook Connect. If you use a username you can't then connect to Facebook and play against your Facebook friends. That's both less fun and less viral, both sides lose.

In their next version of Draw Something they will let people share their drawings easily on Facebook and Twitter (among other things they'll be adding). This will create more engagement around the game among friends and increase their virality.

I can't wait to see what other product improvements they'll introduce that will make Draw Something an even bigger success....

My Talk On Next Generation Game Platforms

Here's a video of my talk from the last Casual Connect conference in Hamburg, Germany.

The topic was next generation platforms.

My part starts at about minute 11:30.

Give Grandma Her Apps

This is a repost of an article that I originally wrote for Technorati and was published there.

Recently, Forrester analyst Thomas Husson wrote a blog post on the future of application stores and I was struck by his suggestion that publishers make it too complicated for end users to find and download apps.
He said:

"The subtle differences between widgets, Web apps, native apps, Java apps, and optimized mobile Web sites don’t make much sense to your end users. As long as they have an icon that acts as a touchpoint to access content and services that are relevant to them, it won't matter. The challenge for you is to make sure that your core target audience has your icon on their home screen, so that they engage with your company and not your competition."
I couldn't agree more.

Husson points out that there is an increasing demand for apps from end users, however, app stores need to greatly improve the user experience so that even those with no technical knowledge can leverage their offerings and access all these coveted apps.

Today, the delivery of apps to end users can sometimes be cumbersome, especially as it relates to app payment. Paying for apps is probably the second most difficult challenge for end users after poor user experience. While payment is what drives developers (the idea of being able to easily make money off of their application), it is a big hurdle for end users.

App stores need to encourage developers to offer free apps so that overall adoption rates rise. Down the road, when the market matures, payment will become easier to manage and more accepted by end users so everyone will benefit. In the meantime, App stores must reduce the friction and let end users easily consume free apps without having to set up an account or payment method (currently, in the Apple Appstore a user needs to set up an account before they can download any app). This will lead to a better app economy in the long run.

This doesn't eradicate or reduce the benefit for developers. On the contrary, with the right monetization mechanisms in place, publishers can realize greater adoption and higher revenues without charging end-users. Developers need other monetization options to be available via the platforms for which they develop; for example, built-in virtual currency systems, easy access to advertising (a la Apple's iAd), and affiliate systems.

Once app stores make it easy for developers to use these different mechanisms in their apps, more and more apps will be self-sustainable without having to charge users. This will lead to an increase in adoption, while still being able to monetize the popularity of an app (for both the developer and the app store).

The driving forces for a good app economy in an app store are:
  • A critical mass of users that reach the appstore
  • A user experience that enables all these users to be able to consume apps easily
  • High quality apps
  • Happy app developers

In order to create high quality apps, app stores need to make sure developers are happy with the results they get from developing an app and offering it through a specific app store. Aside from the prospect of making a lot of money by developing an app, app stores can lure in developers by offering reach. After all, the two things that pretty much every publisher on the Internet is interested in are traffic and monetization. The app store needs a critical mass of users anyway in order to thrive, so it should offer the developer mechanisms for reaching all those users, especially based on the quality of their apps (good apps get exposure to more users, creating even more of an incentive for developers to create good apps).

The apps space is definitely heating up and there is a lot of potential there, but app stores still have a long way to go before everybody, including my grandmother, will be consuming apps.

The big guys all know this and are setting their sights on creating app stores for different platforms to hook in users. Aside from Apple's Appstore, some great examples to keep an eye on are the Google Chrome web store, Microsoft Windows 8 (both currently pending), the Conduit App Marketplace (yes, technically I work for Conduit, but biases aside, you should really check it out), and OpenAppMkt (both live).

Are we in control of our own decisions?

In this great presentation from TED, Dan Ariely demonstrates how easily we are guided into making specific decisions, all while being under the illusion of being in control (not me of course :).

Here are some of the highlights, excuse the crappy screenshots (the entire 17 minute video is embedded below).

In a survey among different countries the percentages of people willing to donate their organs varied quite a bit:

When checking to see why there were such differences between countries, they checked for cultural differences between countries and saw there was no correlation (Austria and Germany for example are culturally similar but have totally different percentages of organ donors).

The answer came from checking the donor form at the DMV.
In some countries (the ones with the low organ donor rate) there was a section like this in the form:
People wouldn't read the text, not check the box, and not join the organ donor program.

In other countries the same question would appear but with a slight variation:
and people would also not read the question, not check the box, but by doing so they would join the organ donor program.
(This is a classic opt-in vs. opt-out decision used in almost all online forms)

Another example he gives is in this sign up form for a newspaper:
1. is a web only subscription
2. is a print only subscription
3. is both web and print subscription for the exact same price as option 2

When presented with these 3 options, these were the percentages of people's choices:

So the middle option is useless (nobody chose it) and can be removed, right?
Look what happened when it was removed and only option 1 and 3 were offered:

So by offering a "useless" option, that nobody chose, the perceived value of the third (more expensive) option went up and more people chose it (because they believed they were getting more for the same price).
That "useless" option made more people pay $125 instead of $59.

Not bad, ah?

Check out the entire video: