The Front End – Appearances Are Important!

So after all that talk about it in my blog yesterday, I did actually go out and pick up the Beatles Rock Band game. The one thing I have to say is that the front-end presentation is amazing, with its spectacular motion graphics and cool background audio clips. The developer, Harmonix, did a really bang-up job making the player feel as though they have been transported on this mystical journey through the music and times of the Beatles. (A Magical Mystery Tour, if you will?)

Oftentimes in games (and in media in general,) people miss how important a well-designed front end is. Whether its a menu system for a videogame or a UI (user interface) for a complicated medical student’s training tool, a good graphical interface can really pull in the user and add a layer of usability and professionalism to any program.

While the exact components of a good UI are subject to debate, some of the elements I think are most important are aesthetic quality, usability, and clicks per action.

Obviously, aesthetic quality is very important in any graphical interface. “What do the eyes see?” If the designer’s chosen colors clash, if the elements are laid out weird, the user is just not going to want to look at it. Make sure you start with a pleasing design; at DDA, Carrie and Judy are always great about sending over aesthetically pleasing designs that are still practical.

Usability is the degree to which the user will be able to understand the interface intuitively. So if a design is all cluttered, with buttons that don’t look like buttons or text that appears to be clickable but isn’t, the user could get frustrated and give up.

The same goes for clicks-per-action. When designing a UI, ask yourself “how many clicks or keystrokes does the user need to perform to complete the main functions the program was designed for?” If the answer averages at more than three per action, you might want to think about simplification. Nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a menu to get a drop-down that leads to another menu with a rollover that links to another page on which you have to choose from three links to finally arrive at the information you wanted.

When you’re in the market for an interactive video game, corporate/medical training tool, or CD-ROM/web interactive, come to DDA for a visually pleasing but effectively designed front end that launches your project to the next level!