MMO Game UX UI Redesign Case Study & what I’ve learned

This is the story behind my “viral” MMO game UX UI redesign project and what I’ve learned from it. I had some free time during the holidays and thus I decided to redesign the Guild Wars 2 UI & Official website which is a MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) since I felt it could do with some improvements in the UX UI department.

 

About the UX UI redesign project:

gw2-ux-ui-website-redesign2

The project was tackled in my free time during multiple weeks,  as a way to diversify my portfolio and do something new that I haven’t done in a while. I choose this specific game since I was already familiar with it and it’s also a MMO which involves tons of users that would interact with it on a daily basis, similar to how a web app has thousand of users.

 

Research & Testing:

Since this was a personal project I did have some creative freedom when it came to the approach, unfortunately data gathering & user testing was quite limited due to not having the resources and technology the developers have. However this doesn’t mean it didn’t involve any, it just means it was smaller in scale then what I could have achieved if I had the time & resources.

The redesign was tested with multiple users from within the game, with different level of experiences, from completely new players to veterans. The research was conducted over Skype by listening to what problems they were having & their questions, as well as letting them test some initial wire-frames to see how it would feel similar to paper prototyping. By doing some research on the official forums and official reddit page I was able to identify some other issues.

 

About the UX UI Redesign:

The redesign was done across different periods of time, the website design being done last summer in roughly a week and the UI part has been done during the winter holiday season in roughly two weeks. The website had only a single iteration done to it, due to time constraints while the actual UI involved creating multiple iterations of conceptual sketches & sketching low-fidelity wire-frames.

 

The community response:

mmo-game-ux-ui-case-study-response

The response was absolutely overwhelming, in just under 24 hours it generated 20.000 clicks and over 400 comments on both the official forums and the official Game Reddit page, making it reach the second page of Reddit. I wasn’t expecting so many comments, it just proves how passionate people are about certain things.

Although there were a fair share of concerns regarding the design, I tried to comment and provide as much information regarding my approach as possible, knowing that not everyone will like it and it could be improved, as any design can while pointing out the fact that if it was for actual production it would take a lot of iterations, feedback & testing to get it right. However the overall response was very very positive, I was blown away by the number of posts saying “Hire This Guy” and by the amount of feedback collected.

 

Some of the feedback

feedback

View the entire feedback by visiting the official forums or the GW2 reddit post.

 

 

Media Response:

The design is still going strong and it got picked up by other big media outlets, one of them being Massively, a popular MMO news website which quickly lead to smaller websites picking up the news as well.

media

 

What I was reminded of:

  • When passion is involved, people aren’t afraid to share their thoughts be it negative or positive
  • Not everyone will like your designs, this creates a healthy & unbiased feedback
  • Some people might nit-pick everything and not understand that it’s a concept and not actual final UI, thus a lot of explanations are needed after the design is made public
  • Without having access to actual data you can’t really prove which one will perform better, you can only assume
  • There’s always room for improvements and based on the community feedback, I would see other things done a little different or improved, but that can be said about any design since a design is never done and can always be improved
  • keeping the same art style and art direction is really important, to ensure consistency between old & new UI changes
  • making users visit an outside resource for example a website to gather data, is a bad approach due to it breaking immersion or distracting them from the actual game experience which could lead to missed events, items, messages and so on

 

What I’ve learned during my design & the feedback provided:

  • there are two groups of people, those who like lists view and those who like grid views, tailoring the UX UI for both could be a solution by having an option to quickly swap between mods similar to e-commerce websites
  • game character panels should feature a way to cater towards people who enjoy complex UI’s and those who like minimalist UI’s by having a way to hide or display that set information
  • retaining the existing navigation or layouts are really important for some people, which further shows that redesigns should be published in segments so the user can accommodate the changes in time
  • grid views although liked by many it’s also disliked by many due to the Windows 8 metro feel, thus a lot of testing and feedback needs to be done to test that it’s appealing to the majority of users.
  • strangely enough, people tolerate sliders a lot better then I would initially thought
  • using images of concept art has a real positive impact, in-depth testing should be conducted to see the appropriate size & number of elements displayed per row
  • keeping the art style consistent between the website & actual game is important
  • people really like reading lore and thus the UI & UX needs to be tailored towards this by incorporating the ability to read set lore easily, be it by right mousing on an item and choosing a read lore or by other means
  • some gamers put an emphasis on visual aesthetics while others put an emphasis on functionality, thus a balance needs to be struck
  • keeping the number of interactions as low as possible is important, but some creative liberties can be taken if it’s to improve the overall flow or accessibility
  • you have multiple user groups within the main user groups, that each want a different thing be it to have the ability to read lore, do certain activities with guildies, do certain things faster and you can’t please everyone
  • MMO’s need to be social, thus letting players do activities or post that they are looking for a certain activity is crucial, especially in guilds
  • future content needs to be kept in mind when designing a UI for an MMO, since during a year they can have a dramatic set of new features introduced or content
  • having to go back & forth between tabs is a real bad idea since users are really concerned about the number of clicks, more then actual web users due to their heavy interactions with the UI on a daily basis.
  • hiding and revealing certain features until a player reaches a certain level is a good approach, that ensures new players won’t get overwhelmed by the amount of things they have access to
  • UX for MMO’s is also about adding new features that will enhance set experience for both new or existing users, it’s not just about the interface and it extends in other parts of the game
  • A good way to remove back & forth navigation is to include tabs or a search function for like lore, dungeons,etc

 

View The UX UI Redesign Case Study :

gw2-ux-ui-website-redesign3

 

Gradinar Razvan
Gradinar Razvan
I've been in the industry for over 9 years and as a Senior Designer I've managed to gather a solid knowledge in a wide variety of fields such as UX, graphic & web design, architecture visualization as well as earning some awards & recognitions. Nowadays I work with clients from across the world doing all of the above, depending on the project & clients need. If you would like to know more about me feel free to view the about section of this website or visit my LinkedIn profile.
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