The Game Design in Monument Valley 2

After playing the first Monument Valley, I purchased an iPad specifically to play the second together with my baby daughter. Coincidently, the story was about a journey of a mother, Ro and her child learning tricks to guide their way little by little. This gradually growing narrative marries well together with the incremental skill-building that players go through.

Incremental Introduction of Game Mechanics

Linelight, the award-winning puzzle game, is a good example how a game can introduce complex mechanics without instructions. In Linelight, a player encounters a single short linear light on a dark line leading to a brighter orange light on the opposite side. With limited options available, the player blindly tries basic keyboard inputs, and then figures out that the game objective is to lead the linear light to the orange light using arrow keys. As stages progress, more complex mechanics are introduced with more complex routes. Linelight maintains the balance between complexity and clarity, which is one of the biggest challenges in game design.

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Amazon Books NYC: Does it predict the future of retail?

Amazon has opened several bookstores nationwide and 2 locations in New York City. There were a lot of questions and speculations for the online mammoth Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar bookstores, especially since they opened prior to the opening of a much more revolutionary cashier-less Amazon Go. I visited 2 locations in New York City, and I wanted to see whether they project the future of retail and learn from it.

The stores are 5,200 square feet for the 34th St. location and 4,000 square feet for the Columbus Circus location. Both locations were decently crowded even though the Columbus Circus location is located on the 3rd floor of the shopping mall. At first glance, they look much like a conventional bookstore, but there are some takeaways in details.

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In & Of Itself, Effective Uses of Foreshadowing and Unpredictable Interaction

I recently went to the show “In & Of Itself” performed and written by award-winning magician and performing artist Derek Delgaudio, and directed by Frank Oz. The show was highly acclaimed by numbers of reviewers including Time Out, which rated it four stars. The show was a hybrid of an illusion and a performing art, maybe a little more toward a performing art. I was impressed by the effective uses of foreshadowing and unpredictable interaction with the audience; Although the show was slow throughout, the audience was completely engaged at the end. These methods for managing expectations can be applied to the general experience of design, and I wanted to take some of my findings in notes.

SPOILER ALERT: If you are interested in the show and have not watched yet, PLEASE DO NOT READ THE REST.

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Travelers’ Mindsets and the Buying Experience of the Virgin America site.

Since Alaska Airlines first announced its acquisition of Virgin America in 2016, I have wanted to revisit Virgin America’s revolutionary website before it disappears. The design collaboration between the design firm, Work & Co., and the Virgin America team achieved numbers of awards and praises by numerous media. According to Work & Co., the redesign resulted in a 14% increase in the general conversion rate, a 20% decrease in the web-related phone calls, and a 3x increase in the mobile conversation. I used this redesign as a case study to learn a lot about a customer-centric airlines’ web experience and applied learnings for several design proposals as well.

In the redesign project, one of the key goals for Virgin America was to increase user conversions in mobile and tablet devices. Rather than web-plus-app approach, the team invested mostly on a responsive web. The trend then was to rely on a mobile native app for usability in smartphones, but it also costed a lot to promote the app to users in order to get them to download.

In the new design, the iconic large clear buttons work seamlessly both in desktop and in mobile, and the experience is as if each page was a well designed presentation of slides. For branding, the design is illustration-heavy without using pictures, which orchestrated a fun and sleek image. Alt the same time, it also helped reduce loading time. According to Work & Co., the Virgin America website recorded a 2 seconds site-loading benchmark which was the fastest loading airlines website. This effective design system is the outcome of the unique team structure of Work & Co., where engineers and designers do not only work together but they also manage projects and client satisfaction by themselves.

Below, I would like to list some of my findings that I admire about the design.

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Twitter’s UX Efforts Lead to DAU Growth

After years of struggle with its negative impressions and lack of revenue streams, Twitter had its first profitable quarter after its IPO in 2013. Targeted ads were much more effective and daily active users (or DAU) continued to grow for the last five terms. Some interesting facts from the report can be found in the Reuters’ article. From a product design perspective, I wanted to observe the UX efforts Twitter made. The following topics are only small portions of what I have noticed, but there is a lot that we, as designers, can learn and apply for product designs.

Feed organization and “In case you missed it”

Twitter has been actively updating its logic behind the feed, and algorithms now take a bigger role to optimize the classic time-based feed. Although Twitter still emphasizes a real-time content platform unlike Instagram and Facebook, the introduction of non-chronological feed has confused some users. WIRED UK even published an article explaining how to disable the non-chronological order. However, in reality, only “fewer than 2 percent of all users opted out of the algorithmic timeline” according to Slate’s article.

There are 3 main areas in Twitter feeds, organizing tweets based on scores. Factors that can affect visibility include: whether a tweet is recent, has strong engagement, if the user has had interaction with the author, if they have a close relationship to the author, or if they are active on Twitter recently.

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Spotify UX Observations​

1. Spotify creates a playlist both from your history and a from specific song

Spotify is about discovering new songs based on its recommendation engine that is articulated by user search and compilation and its own recommendation engine.

* More than 40 million listeners have used Discover Weekly by May 2016, since its launch on July 2015. (Source by Spotify’s release)

In this context, there are two main user cases:

The first user explores curated playlists such as Discover Weekly or Daily Mix, and the second user heads to the specific artist and explores popular songs by the artist. Taking either path, Spotify leads users to discover a new song. The new song can be added or used to create new a playlist based on the song. This introduces users to a new cycle of discovery. With each interaction, this endless cycle makes for a better personalization experience.

Small gimmicks such as a press-hold-to-preview makes the endless chaining of playlists flow frictionlessly. With this, users can preview and observe new playlists or songs without disrupting their current listening experience.

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Yahoo Finance App Redesign Observations

Yahoo Finance is known for the simple interface and the destination app for basic stock app. Its unique users, which exceeds 70 million unique users per month, set distance to its competitors such as MSN Money, CNN Money, and Google Finance.

”14 alternatives to Apple’s default apps that will supercharge your iPhone– To replace Stocks” by Telegraph.

Yahoo Finance went through its major design overhaul in July 2016. New design focuses on connecting stories and data with continuous news feed, inspired by social media news feeds.

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Airbnb UX Design Observations

1. How the Airbnb site evolved with its expanded business scope

Airbnb is expanding its business from a straightforward home-sharing service to an extensive travel experience provider. As a result the site has to bridge more varied content. Airbnb has adopted well while maintaining its straightforward call to action on its home page.

Aiirbnb has focused on “Travel to Home” and “Making Friends.” It has been expressed in its simple but smart copy “Welcome Home” from the older version of the site to the more recent“Book unique homes and experience a city like a local.” Then with the only stand out CTA, being a location and date picker, the Airbnb home page has communicated what the core business proposition is in minimal way.

As Airbnb has evolved to provide extensive travel experiences, the hero image/video was removed. A single strong visual was powerful to market its service in the beginning, but as the name got more mature, it is more effective without it. This way, it draws more attention the to list of available experiences in a grid underneath. A Series of images that they provide speak their vision more effectively than a single hero image. Once the user engages with this list, the main copy collapses and the CTA is minimized- the list becomes the main focus. It is a subtle move but this change describes how Airbnb expanded its business scope, while it maintained its simple interface that many users are familiar with.

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UI Treatments to get users hooked in Instagram

How to hook users with Internal Triggers in Instagram

In 2014 Business Insider published an article with comments from Nir Eyal, a Stanford University lecturer and author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” stating a couple of reasons why users are addicted to Instagram. Namely, a desire to capture precious moments, an immediate reward by making cool photography easy, and FOMO acting as strong internal triggers.

In 2017, TIME published an article “Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health” stating how Instagram leads to anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO. General negativity around social media aside, there is a lot to learn from the small tricks that Instagram uses to get users hooked on the app.

Like to get more likes

One of the most obvious reward examples in Instagram is “hearting”. After using Instagram for a while, users will realize they get more reactions from users whom you interact more with. The hypothesis is that users’ actions are affecting their recipient’s feed. The following are examples on how Instagram makes users heart more to get more hearts.

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