The Sims: UX Design 101
I want to take this opportunity to give a shout out to all you Sims lovers out there. I’m not talking about the ambitious entrepreneurs building empires over in Sim City. I’m talking about every scrappy rascal that spent eight hours typing cheat codes in by hand to pimp out a monstrosity of a house. I’m talking about the ones who learned the hard way that trapping a character in a room because they accidentally deleted all the doors was not a great contracting move. Blood, sweat, and tears went into each and every one of my little Sims families, as I watched them flip out over kitchen fires and awkwardly attempt to flirt. I learned a lot from that game, and today I still have the honor of creating fictitious characters that want to hang out with me. I call them user personas.
At a workshop last fall, we worked on creating target user groups. I still use this technique often in my freelance, encouraging clients to think about the three main groups they’re trying to attract to their business. It’s crucial to always remember who you’re designing for. In the case of this particular workshop, we were tasked with creating three groups of people that would want to stay at a killer B&B in Chelsea, NY. The groups I came up with were:
The traveler differs from the tourist in that they are not looking for cliche experiences that non-locals are often drawn to, but rather want to experience the true nature and heart of a city. They find places to stay through word of mouth or personal references.
Youngsters in Love
There is something intimate and romantic about the thought of staying at a B&B. These couples looking for a getaway will often gravitate towards a smaller, more unique place to connect with one another without the distractions of a busy hotel.
They may be in town for work, but they’re not going to sell themselves short. With an extensive budget and some spare time on their hands, these artsy pros are looking to make the best of their trip once the work day is over.
So, you get the idea. These were brief descriptions of the types of customers a chic B&B could be attracting. However, that experience was a little different than the approach I took this time around.
It all started when trying to brainstorm ways that Snagit could help one personalize their markups to better reflect their own company brands. So not only did I get to come up with a few example users, I got to design the company that they worked for. We went with a financial institution, Griffin Credit Union. Griffin…because I wanted to design an icon based on a badass mythical beast, and credit union…because practically every other type of financial institution already existed in real life.
Enter Becky. Becky is in her twenties. She works in the marketing department. She’s pretty chill. She’s friends with Ben. Ben is a seasoned UX designer that works on their mobile banking app. Every killer credit union has to have a great mobile banking app, right? They’re both friends with Kevin, one of the designers in the marketing department. The three of them use TechSmith tools on their own, and to send killer images and videos to each other, as they trust each other to give good feedback.
So up until this point, my research was relatively normal. I had developed three different personalities and roles, that happen to intermingle at some point or another throughout their work day. But what were they marking up? What did their company feel like? What were they trying to better explain with image or video or a bold, red arrow? With vibrant colors and clear, approachable copy, I took off to design landing pages, financial documents, and mobile websites. It was helpful to have use cases to talk about but what made it even better was to have real assets these characters could be doing things with. I could help predict how our tools would help with their hypothetical projects, whether marking up a photograph in Snagit or making a video to walk through a mobile design in Camtasia. I kept joking to my coworkers that I was going to start a bank after this project was through, seeing as I already had all of the assets… but it was incredible to immerse myself in the life of these users and the business they spent so much time at. I grew somewhat attached. See a trend here? I'm not saying that playing The Sims should be a mandatory UX design class, but I’m not not saying it.