My Involvement:

  • User research and interviews
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Identify your target market.
  • Persona Creation based on real users
  • Defining the product’s purpose
  • Establishing design direction.
  • Information Architecture techniques
  • User Flows
  • lo-fi to hi-fi wireframe development
  • Prototypes development – paper to hi-fi
  • Testing with users
  • Iteration and Pivots

Tools:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Sketch
  • Card Sorting Tools online
  • inVision
  • UXPin

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES PORTAL

Enterprise Network Liferay Portal. 

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of my client.

BACKGROUND

Stakeholder needs 

In 2008 I was employed by startup company Skill Gaming to work on a social network concept called Funcurrent. My role as designer included UX and UI design within a team of business analysts, information architects and developers.

Funcurrent was originally intended to be a gateway to gaming, whether online, offline, board games, battle re-enactments or paper based games like Sudoku.

The initial idea evolved since the early stages and the vision was that Funcurrent would be a one stop site where you can organise and view any event you might be interested in with calendar facilities, location settings etc. and to make your time your own to enjoy the things you love with REAL people you enjoy being with.

What set Funcurrent apart from other social networking sites is the fact that it aimed to be exclusion based rather inclusion based. It respected privacy, was secure and aimed at the 30+ year olds.

Rather than adding as many friends as possible you could add only the ones you want. If you preferred people didn’t know you belonged to the network, you could easily set your security preferences. At this point in time sites like Facebook and MySpace did not have advanced security settings. This allowed control over the following situation: a work colleague stumbles onto your profile and adds you as a friend, in turn you feel socially obliged to accept the invitation although you would not have added them to your contact list if you had a choice.

An online concept game called Mettle were being developed in parallel with Funcurrent utilising a bespoke micro payment plugin engine which would be used to generate revenue by purchasing in game items. The micro payment system would also be licences to other vendors for a fee.

BRANDS

Funcurrent was also developed to coincide with the release of Skill Gaming’s online first person shooter game “Mettle” which was in development. Mettle would showcase Funcurrent’s capabilities and would introduce a bespoke micro-transaction payment engine  which was also in development by the company. My role in Mettle was to create assist in creating the brand and awareness of the Mettle / Funcurrent partnership.

PERSONAS

User Needs

Identifying the potential target groups; their needs, how to communicate the service to them and what incentives provided would convince them to join the portal.

Key Points

  • Awareness
    • Being aware of potential target audience
    • How to make them aware of the portal / service / product
  • Understanding
    • Understanding the needs of potential target audience
    • Making people understand what the portal is about, how it could be used to enhance / organise their gaming experience as well as the social networking capabilities. Pointing out the benefits of joining the portal.
  • Register (Sign up)
    • Convincing them in subtle ways to Register.
  • Engage
    • Engaging with them to make their experience better by offering tours, giving them the opportunity to explore the possibilities and learn how to use the tools to their full potential.
    • Making them use the functionality on offer (Provide them with ways to explore and offering them tutorials to fully utilise the site)
  • Advocate – Getting them to spread the word.

Three target groups were identified covering the scope of potential users; they will be referred to as Brian, Steph and Death-Slayer. These potential users have different needs, interests and lives.

 

THE SCOPE

Technology

The most cost effective technology on which to build funcurrent had been determined by the developers as the Open Source Portal platform “Liferay”. The portal framework was also chosen because of the midget layout of the platform. Funcurrent was to be a completely personalised experience where the user would create their own unique space where they would be in full control of the content they would have access to apart from a few default settings.

Liferay is a Java based platform and the earlier versions on which funcurrent had been developed left design challenges which had to be addressed. In order to create desired features and effects on the framework the then emerging javascript library JQuery was integrated. The CSS also had to be heavily customised to allow for branding as well as layout customisation.

The chosen technology had to be taken into consideration every step of the way in the UX design process in order to achieve the deliverables set out by the main shareholders and stakeholders.

Smartphones were still in it’s infancy and was not a player in the UX decision making, however, making provision for the advent and integration of the rise in smartphone had been discussed.

THE CHALLENGE

Different people from different walks of life, with different schedules are all potential subscribers, their needs and free time vary and a way needs to be developed to attract the key audiences without pressurising them into registering or giving too many details at once by bombarding them with forms. As we track the user’s movement, and directing them in playful ways, building up the user profile in a subtle way without distracting them becomes possible.

 

THE SOLUTION

Pre-Registration: Flow of Play – Concepts

“Play” will be one of the first things a visitor to the Funcurrent site will see. The play button will launch a journey of discovery for the user (and Funcurrent) in finding out where the user’s main interests lie. The intention is that a user goes on a journey of self discovery, but the journey would also give the organisation valuable information about the user – creating a two way discovery process. This will be saved as a “cookie” on the user’s local machine, which will remember the user’s previous journey and take the user to the point where he left his previous session, thereby not going through the whole journey again.

The purpose of play is to subtly build up a user profile without the user actually filling in the traditional tedious form and being confronted by an “information bomb”.

Play” would consist of 4 possible entry points naming:

  1. Who?
  2. How?
  3. When?
  4. What?

The answers to the questions would:

  • Subtly lead the user on a journey of discovering what the site is about and what it could do for them.
  • Make the organisation understand what the user considers as primary to his/her needs.
  • Lead the user to eventually complete all 4 sections, whereby we would be able to profile them and automatically “build” links onto their personal home page by suggesting information or events they would be interested in.
  • It is important to note however, that the user can decide to quit the journey at any time and register, without completing it, or not follow the journey at all, but might do so later.
  • This would be done by placing a “Play” link on every member’s Personal home page.

Once the “Play” journey is completed the information would be stored once more in a cookie, at which point the visitor would be asked to register in order to save their profile on their own personal web space. Only once the user registers would it be possible for the organisation to store all user information in a database.

The following information was gathered through user interviews at a small focus group session.

 

WHO DO YOU LIKE TO OR NORMALLY PLAY?

  • Real World Friends (Invite)
  • Online Friends (Invite)
  • Club / Group
  • Solo vs. AI
  • Work Colleagues (Office LAN

HOW DO YOU NORMALLY PLAY YOUR GAMES?

  • On paper (Sudoku / crosswords etc.)
  • Mobile
  • Phone
  • Blackberry
  • PDA PC Mail

WHEN DO YOU PLAY GAMES?

  • While Commuting In the evenings at home
  • Lunch times
  • Weekends
  • During Breakfast
  • Only on holiday
  • Whenever I can

WHAT TYPES OF GAMES DO YOU PLAY?

  • Poker (Casino type gambling games)
  • MMOG’s
  • Adventure Strategy
  • Social First Person Shooter – METTLE
  • Casual

 

USER FLOW AND SITEMAPS

Combining what we know into logical visual vocabulary

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

PRE-REGISTRATION

  • The flow of Play (also referred to as the “journey” or “discovery tree”).
  • After the journey is completed, the user will see a generic Home page of the portals on offer;
  • these might only contain information about the portals or “feeds” from Funcurrent administrators, such as Funcurrent News, Top Games, Top Gamers etc.
    • These portlets will not be editable for non-registered users.
  • POST-REGISTRATION

After registration the user will create:

  • Private Profile Page
  • Personal Profile Page
  • World View Page

HIGH FIDELITY PROTOTYPES IN LIFERAY PORTAL

TESTING & CONCLUSION

Alpha testing carried out by in-house testers coincided with an Alpha release of Mettle.

PLEASE NOTE: Skill Gaming Ltd entered administration before the funcurrent portal or the game “Mettle” were released to the public.

STYLE GUIDES 

The Funcurrent style guide contains simple instructions about how to use the Funcurrent logo, colour pallete, supporting typeface and tone of voice. 

AUDIENCE

Who we’re talking to 

  • Funcurrent is the place where casual gamers socialize and organize their playing time.
  • A place where people can tap into great gaming experiences with a minimum of effort.
  • We’re not for those people who spend 24 hours a day playing games in darkened rooms.
  • We are here to help people who like to escape the stresses of their lives by grabbing a few hours’ playing time here and there.

Tone of Voice

How we talk 

  • So what does the idea of Flow mean for the way we communicate? It’s simply about removing barriers to understanding.
  • The gaming world can be an intimidating place – with lots of horrible jargon, secret languages and cliquiness.
  • We don’t like that kind of thing – we think it spoils the experience for everyone but the hardcore gaming elite.
  • So to please casual gamers, there’s really just one big point to remember:
  • Use ‘real life’ language, so things are easy to understand.

Tone of Voice

Things to avoid

  • We want to steer away from things like: l33tspeak. Obviously.
  • Flaming wars. Let’s keep things civil, please. Or Funcurrent won’t be any fun.
  • In-jokes. It’s good for all users to understand what you’re talking about, not just the experts.
  • Gaming jargon. People will probably pick this up as they play anyway, but we don’t want to be the ones who confuse them in the first place.

Tone of Voice

Things we like

  • Let’s focus on doing these things instead: Making everything as clear as possible.
  • Using short words. And sentences. To create a feeling of dynamic progress.
  • Keeping things concise and to the point – we want to reduce the time people spend reading so they can spend more time playing.
  • Not taking ourselves too seriously – this is gaming after all. It’s supposed to be fun!
  • Now let’s get on with the serious-yet-fun business of helping our users command armies, play cards, conquer worlds & all that. 

METTLE

The idea behind Mettle is that it is an arena sport similar to gladiators where the gamer can buy in game items such as energy or bullets. The brand is classy and sporty. The idea could further develop into “sponsored” arenas by well established luxury brands advertising their logos and products in the arena.

Thank you for taking the time to view this case study.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss my work, skills or if you would like to discuss potential employment.

THE END