More Observations at Science World: Desktop & Browser Games

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Following our warm-up exercise in observation, I divided the class to conduct observations at two different exhibits that feature games. In this exercise, I asked students to spend at least 30 minutes observing and noting visitors & pain points while interacting with the station (and ideally making repeat visits to see if behaviors/users are consistent). They were then tasked to come up with a solution that is “low tech” in nature, as well as a wireframe for the “high tech” solution.

Though obviously kiosks are physical rather than entirely digital, you’ll note that many of the themes discovered in this exercise are common to digital media as well.  Attracting users, higher than desirable “bounce” rates, unread (& unloved) instructions, helping users get started–what product doesn’t wrestle with these eternal issues?

Ernie The Electric Eel game

The first kiosk is located in a new BC Hydro “Our World” gallery devoted to energy conservation. Essentially it’s a walk-up kiosk with a number of input devices (trackpad, buttons, joystick) that controls the Our World website.  Primarily, visitors play the Ernie the Electric Eel game (playable here) because the kiosk limits what users can select on the site.  The kiosk is set up like this:


The curator described some typical usage patterns–as you might have guessed by looking at the drawing above, this primarily involves users randomly clicking and pressing all of the buttons to try and get the kiosk to work. However, there were a number of other observations that the students made, with some possible solutions:

Even More Contraptions game

The second kiosk is a small table with two computers loaded with a puzzle physics game with a somewhat unfortunate location in the Eureka Gallery.  Why unfortunate? It’s overshadowed by much noisier and physically stimulating siblings.  And when I say overshadowed, I mean it quite literally as it’s located in a rather dark corner.  Here’s a rough sketch:


The exhibit curator described some of the user behaviors that plague this exhibit such as: users not knowing how to use the input devices; hardware breaking; and visitors escaping the game to surf online.  He also was looking for some means of gathering some basic player data so that Science World can continue to improve the exhibit and game selection.  Much like with the other kiosk, students picked up on a lot more than what had been anecdotally noted by staff–here’s what the students came up with:

So why observe?

Again, these exercises show how little time is needed to do an observation and learn about your users and their pain points.  The goal isn’t necessarily to learn everything possible about your users and their behaviors, but rather to identify some of their key pain points and solve for those quickly.  Which can be a rather useful tool to have in the tool belt.


Interested in the User Experience course I’m teaching? Here are more posts:

>The First Class: UX for the Real World

>The Second Class: Merchandizing in the Real World

>The Third Class: Learning from Whole Foods

>The Fourth Class: Usability Testing Tips

>The Fifth Class: Usability Audit/Report

>The Sixth Class: Lean Prototyping

>The Seventh Class: Prototyping as Storytelling

>The Eighth Class: Gamification prototypeMobile prototypeScrapbook prototype,  Kiosk prototype.

>The Ninth Class: Empathy & User-Centered Design

>The Tenth & Eleventh Class: King Edward Village Observation, Bucket Radio exhibit

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