March 13th, 2021 GalaCon Online #3
GalaCon Online 2021 -UI/UX with Nina Desai
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Speakers: Nina Desai
UX for Blockchain Gaming
How UX design can help blockchain games become mainstream.
Today I’m going to dive into how UX can help blockchain games become mainstream.
A little bit about me...[02:27]
Like Jason was describing, I am a UX designer at Gala. I like to think of myself as the resident ambassador for noobs here. I can really relate to the struggles that new users have when they first enter this space. I’ve worked in both the web 2.0 space and in the casual gaming space and it's been really fun to use that experience to solve some of these blockchain challenges.
Who are we designing for? [0:57]
When designing, I always want to start with this question; Who are we designing for?
At Gala, we’re trying to reach the full spectrum of gamers. Gala is a game company, first and foremost and we want our games to appeal to casual gamers with no crypto experience, as well as to hardcore gamers that are active on the blockchain.
On one end, we have casual gamers who may be completely new to the blockchain, and on the other end, we have hardcore gamers who are obsessed with all things crypto. There’s probably some hybrid where you have a casual gamer who happens to also be a blockchain professional but also addicted to Candy Crush Saga or a hardcore gamer who never dealt with crypto; In other words, these are our people.
I imagine many of you here today are falling on the right end of the spectrum and if I’m being honest, I’m probably closer to the left and of course, we love you all.
UX Challenges [2:02]
So these are some of the UX challenges that we’ve faced. This is by no means a complete list. I could really write a book on the subject cause there are so many.
1) Casual gamers are used to low barriers to entry:
To start, casual gamers are used to very low barriers to entry; so you all have seen this flow (Please see video at [2:18] to see what Nina is referring to) on the mainstream app stores, and you can click on an app store icon, click to get or download an app, double click to install (or use face recognition and or thumbprint), then you have the game. Credit cards are also connected to the store so it is incredibly easy to fulfill this transaction.
2) New users do not know how to get crypto.
3) Transactions are complicated by gas fees and long wait times.
4) Private key practices are a big paradigm shift from the login and password model.
5)Last but not least, watching jargon is super intimidating.
For example, we have DEFI, GWEI, Smart Contracts, ERC 1155 Token Standard, Distributed Ledger, Non- fungible tokens, Private key, Cold Storage, Web 3.0, Dapps, HASH RATES…..WTF?
We don’t want to bombard players with too many of these terms, at least when they first participate in our app but once they get more comfortable we can start to introduce some of these concepts.
So here are some of the solutions we’ve come up with and by no means have we solved every problem and this is most definitely a work in progress. Your feedback on Discord though has been invaluable in helping us to iterate to get to a better place.
Reduce barriers to play [3:51]
So to start, reduce barriers to play or in other words, LET THEM PLAY!
In so many crypto gaming projects, it’s difficult to actually get into the game to try it out, maybe you don’t know if you want to fork over your private information and set up a wallet just to play a game your friend told you about. Maybe you see that you can sign in with MetaMask but you don’t even know what MetaMask is. At Gala, new players can play Town Start instantly with no obligation to sign up.
This means ANYONE can play Town Start. No account or wallet is required.
Our new user flow to play a game looks like this:
A player goes to our URL, clicks on the play button to play. [4:29]
A player goes to our URL, then they click on a play button. Immediately, they are loading the game so this rivals the mainstream app stores and it’s very simple. Additionally, your games are playable on all devices. Town Star is an HTML 5 game that can be played from any browser, on any device. Gala is a progressive web app that can be added to a home screen from any device or platform. PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) are discoverable, installable, responsive, and have a feel that rivals an actual native app.
Present complex choices gradually. [5:13]
So when a gamer does decide to commit and create an account, we present complex choices gradually. This will allow the player to create their account in phases. Basic account setup lets players defer wallet setup to a later time. Wallet setup is only required for players who want to partake in purchasing or claiming game items.
Use friction as a protective measure [5:38]
Using friction through the process of setting up a wallet is cumbersome. We feel it’s our duty to guide players away from errors in order to prevent mistakes so we build checkpoints along the way. That may seem annoying but giving players full control of their own data is such a big responsibility. It needs to be fully transparent.
Give users control and freedom [6:04]
This one comes from Jacob Nielsen’s usability guidelines (to geek out a little) which in a nutshell says users should be able to quickly correct mistakes or backtrack on choices made through the treasure chest. We are trying to present the notion of gas prices in a way that gives users the control to make choices and compare the gas cost of one item versus another. This interface also provides an easy way to undo or cancel any choices that are made or abandon the process altogether. This creates a really safe place for users to explore the impact of gas on the various NFTs they might have and then make informed decisions.
Create familiarity with common UX patterns [6:49]
Since the blockchain is already so new to many players, it’s best to avoid re-invention for its own sake. Familiar UI can provide a sense of comfort and control. We use the carousel pattern to make browsing games feel similar to popular app stores and we use the activity feed pattern to make notifications about transactions and incoming items. Really easy to understand. We also share some of the common patterns from other crypto sites for behaviors like sending and receiving coins.
So, through using these shared patterns, we can develop a common language that leaves people feeling confident which ultimately can make them feel safe and secure.
Just to wrap things up, our principles are:
1) Reduce barriers to play
2) Simplify new user flows
3) Make content accessible
4) Introduce choices
5) Use friction deliberately
6) Freedom and control
We think that through simple UX and kick-ass games, we can usher in a new wave of blockchain players.
Jason: You guys get to see Nina be amazing. Uh-huh, there you go.
Jason: Okay, so, now what we’ll do is… by the way, Eric has hopped on this call as well so he’s hanging out there if he may want to add in some questions here. So let’s go ahead and go to both the Periscope stream and the Discord for any questions that anyone may have. What do you guys got? Oh, and by the way Nina, I need to tell you that people are singing your praises, absolutely singing your praises in the comments.
Nina: Thank you!
Jason: So you are the person who makes all of this possible. Without you, we would all be a bunch of geeks, you know, running into walls.
QUESTION: What is your biggest challenge? Tom Guy would like to know.[9:30]
Nina: I think well...like I was saying, the complexity of some of the jargon and some of the concepts can be really difficult to simplify and I’m always trying to reduce an interaction to the fewest number of steps, and it's really challenging when there’s so much of a financial side to it and there’s the customer data side so you don’t want to oversimplify and gloss over really important information so that’s probably the biggest challenge.
QUESTION: What are some current projects that you think have a particularly good user experience? [10:13]
Nina: I think...um… I recently saw this app called “Foundation” which is an art like NFT app and it’s really clean. I really like things that are super clean so I think that and CyptoKitties obviously and Top Shots, um OpenSea is nice and then Coinbase is, I think, very user-friendly also in terms of reaching a mainstream audience, I think they do a lot right.
Jason: Yeah, I think that reaching a mainstream audience is absolutely critical um, and Dave Myron, yes, this will be available as a replay. Everything will be and I’m recording everything and once YouTube decides to allow us to access YouTube again because maybe we were too mean to them or something, I don’t know… then we will definitely be uploading all of this to YouTube. One of the questions that we get pretty frequently is…
QUESTION: Are there any other third-party login options that we have plans for? Any thoughts on that? [11:13]
Nina: I think we will end up doing MetaMask and hopefully PayPal. I think those two would be huge. Um.. maybe Stripe.
Jason: Okay, okay. Let’s see what other questions that they have…
QUESTION: Nina, do you have any plans to make the social page on Gala Games more user-friendly? What does each thing mean? Can we have accurate data? [11:49]
Nina: That’s a great observation. I think we all know that the social page could use a lot of improvements so I would love to read through that page.
Jason: Yes, yes.
Nina: I mean, I can start working on it.
Jason: One of the things that I just want to really touch for everybody that’s listening is that this is how this process works okay? This is how we build something, we test it, we work with the users on it, we find out what doesn’t work, we find out what does work. We find out how you know, we can potentially improve. Then, we have amazing people like Nina who take all of this information and all of the Discord chatter and all of the observations you guys send and all of the direct messages and all of the tweets and all of that and we give it to her in a gigantic bundle and she looks at it and she says “magic” and she creates an amazingly beautiful thing that we then reveal to you guy and uh, it changes everything. Like you should have seen when we were first talking about the store; I made that really clunky thing that was really terribly embarrassing and she’s like “No, we must make it better” and she made it better and now it’s beautiful. She does all of this with the help of all of the engineers who do some of the back-end stuff but we wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her. Alright, let’s see, I got a couple more questions um… let’s see...let’s see...let’s see… Do you have anything that you’d like to add Eric as I dredge through the Discord?
Eric: Well, like, I’m looking at one of these questions…
QUESTION: Nina, have you ever won a Town Star competition? [13:59]
Nina: No. I have participated...I’m not that good at Town Star despite having worked on that game for a couple years um… I think I was proud to get like 30,000 or maybe 50,000 as my top score but I have not, I’m nothing compared to our players.
Jason: Did you see the top score for the two-day competition right now?
Nina: I haven’t seen it, no.
Jason: They broke 10 million.
Nina: Oh my gosh
Jason: It’s insane. Like it’s just crazy. I’m super excited to see how that works out. Um, the teams that are competing right now are absolutely killing it. Okay, let’s see, we’ve got a couple more questions, um, and then I think… oooh okay, so this is a question from Psy, Psy would like to know...
QUESTION: Do we have any key phrases? Key phrases are a mega difficult thing for the average non-crypto user to understand... Do you have any thoughts about how we could potentially make this easier, you know, working together with the community? [14:59]
Nina: Yeah, that we’ve discussed before I think. I think that’s a really touchy subject because it's in place to protect the user and so I don’t know exactly what the solution is, I don’t want to say that I do but it’s something that we are considering as alternative ways to avoid it like through linking like MetaMask is one way that people wouldn’t have to create a new key phrase. This is one possibility. I don’t know if you guys have anything to add to that, Eric or Jason?
Jason: I mean I think it’s an interesting thing, it’s definitely one of the biggest challenges that we as an organization is looking to push this mainstream. One of the biggest challenges we have is getting people over this because it's absolutely critical but it’s very easy for people to lose their
Key phrase. You know, as everybody knows, when you create an account and you tie an address to that account, we don’t have access to it. There’s absolutely nothing we can do to gain access to that address, and if you lose your key phrase… there is absolutely nothing we can do to help you recover it. So this is why it’s really important to really educate you users and we’re doing our best on that and I think that there are definitely things that we can do to improve on that in the future.
Eric: Michael just Slacked me on an important point actually, to add, which is, we can’t keep the key phrase for our users AND claim to be decentralized. So there are all these issues around money laundering and money transmittal that we need to be very careful around. We need to be very conscious of so, we, you know, with the advent of all these technologies, there are some lines that we wouldn’t normally worry about crossing that we have to actually worry about. One of those is controlling users’ funds and we REALLY don’t want to do that. Last thing you want is FINRA to come over and say “Hey! Tell us about your anti-money laundering technology and strategies” and we just don’t want to go there.
Jason: Yeah, Absolutely 100 percent. Okay, is there anything else you guys would like to add before we kind of close up and we get ready for Price?
QUESTION: Myrtle wants to know when we are planning on integrating different languages? [18:12]
Jason: I think that that’s definitely something that we will probably be doing in the future. It just requires everything to be really polished and kind of in a fairly complete state in English before we move on with that. Does that sense Nina?
Nina: I think so, yeah. It’s absolutely a goal of ours. We don’t have a specific date planned but it’s been talked about many times.