Usability Usability Usability
Some of you may have read my recent Gamasutra article, Game Tools Tune-Up: Optimize Your Pipeline Through Usability but I wanted to discuss something that writing that article has really brought to the forefront of my mind. As an industry, we aren’t very reflective on the methodologies we use regarding the development of tools. This blog as well as other sources may be bringing about a change in that regard, but it is progressing very slowly. There are techniques in use in other industries that have significantly increased the usability of software, and many have been around for many years.
While at GDC this year, the idea of usability came up at the Tools Round Table. Now, I’m pretty sure John had included the topic at the round table, in part because he had gotten a very early preview (and several revisions) of my article before it went up on Gamasutra. I appreciated the effort on his part, but I was a little surprised at the total lack of response from the group. When asked who was using what techniques for usability, the room was completely silent. I expected that if anyone in the industry was doing anything at all with usability, surely this was the group.
Although it was a bit disheartening, it illuminated a real issue in game development that most of us have known in our hearts for quite a while. Very few people are serious about making game development tools accessible to their users. Artists, designers and even programmers spend a great deal of time dealing with tool issues for the length of every new project. The tools developers wonder why they have so much trouble, without ever realizing that there are techniques in existence that could answer that very question and could help them make better tools that got fewer complaints and more work done.
I recommend every tool developer out there take a look at these resources:
Also, read Alan Cooper’s excellent books on usability: