UX Audit: Dark Forest Game

Really, what’s going on here?

#1 the difference between the “theme” and the “experience”

A theme is how the game purposefully looks. Terms like “ugly”, “retro”, “pixelated”, “text heavy” relate to the theme and are all valid options. Often when developers (and inexperienced designers) talk about making a better “interface” they’re talking about having nicer fonts, 3d buttons, shadows, colors, etc.

There are no right way of picking a theme for a software (but there are a few wrong ways)

#2 If you need to explain it, then you’ve failed already

The first experience is fundamental for any software development and is often renegated by developers because it’s the screen they never see, full of empty and unselected stuff. This is the first screen a user would see when they log in the game:

WTF am I looking at??
First screen after closing the pop up. The black slowly expands as you “explore” but you wouldn’t know that.
Is this a game or a cryptocurrency?

#3 Kondorize your room

Sometimes you don’t need a designer, you need Marie Kondo: often a lot of great work can be accomplished by looking at all your elements with a fresh eye and asking yourself where they belong, and what goes with them. And if they don’t bring you joy, get rid of them. Often a common mistake is that developers start by making menus and then filling them up, before realizing if they actually need that particular piece of UI. Now let’s look back at our previous UI and understand better what it relates to.

It looks important enough to be on top, but isn’t

#4 Discoverability: Less is not always more

Finally let’s talk a bit about the proposed contextual menu:

#5 Polish polish polish

A lot of developmnent work is just grinding details the user will never notice over an over. For example, for a text heavy interface, text in Dark Forest is quite messy. Certainly a better text placement algorithm would help avoid them one on top of the other. Another very important strategically important UI element is the radius circle, that, when you select a planet, tells you how far your ships can travel (the grey circles below), Ideally you should be able to see the full circles and they are selfexplanatory:

#6 Designers: learn to talk to developers

Most of this post is intended to developers or designers learning the ropes. But this is a point addressed to designers: know how to talk the language of your audience. Before jumping and trying to make a beautiful screen out of something ugly, try first really understanding the process in which decisions were made so that the UI looks like that.

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