Category Archives: Interactive

Mobile App Game Graphics Getting Good

I’ve been researching spaceship graphics for a mobile app game we’re wanting to concept out, and I’ve been really impressed with how some designers have approached a more flat-ish skew-morphism style which really comes across contemporary and professional. It also helped me to see all the various states and pieces these designers are putting in this sprite-type view of their graphics.

game spaceship colors entry

The other important element is the overall brand of the game, and before I even thought of a logotype or identity, I was worried about the color palette. Some designers were really pushing the boundaries of normal color convention and going with a wide range of colors and chromas. I expected to see some monochromatic ranges mixed with various grays and black, but most of the ones I saw were using at least 3 or 4 different colors and some neutrals or browns in the mix also. I love doing this type of research before I start just to help me step up my game and not re-invent the wheel, or don’t start way behind the industry when these examples can boost my starting point.

Researching Old Atari Games brings up nostalgia and surprise

Is it as shocking to everyone else, over 30 years old, how basic the graphics were on Atari games? I seem to research them for various projects about every 3 years or so, and every time I look at them I can’t believe how simple they are. Especially in consideration to how amazing it seemed as a kid to have all these different games and talk trash on your brother or cousin on who was the best at which games.

atari graphics entry

I look across some of my favorites like Pitfall and Dig Dug, and think to myself, ‘I swear it looked cooler than that back in the day’. The UX (or game mechanic) seemed so much more complex when you were a kid and console games just came out. Would kids today, after having the amazing graphics and in-depth game features even appreciate the old Atari games?

What if I took the exact game mechanics of Pitfall and just updated the graphics to photorealistic 3D style, would it be fun in today’s world? I want to play all the games now, to really get a sense of what the UX is, what you really strive for (like points, levels, achievements) and see how it compares to even the simplest mobile app games these days. Boy how times/games have changed.


Using Axure to build a Prototype, Easy for Designers

If you’re a designer and don’t know HTML from your backside, you can still use Axure to easily create a prototype for a client. I had to rip out a prototype for a project and instead of brushing up my HTML skills for mobile, I just used Axure to save my time in finding a developer real quick to do it right.

If you don’t know Axure, I think it started out as more of a User Experience tool, which allowed Sitemapping and Wireframing linking. But then I think it saw its audience use it more for rapid prototyping, and then some really cool features starting coming out like responsive settings for mobile and its file hosting platform Axshare.

To be honest, I was forced to use it at one of my agency jobs and I wasn’t happy about having to create a fully functioning prototype as an User Experience Architect (my role at that agency), but I did see clients really light up and fully understand the wireframe concepts when they could easily click through the prototype themselves.  The program is really easy to use, as far as importing image graphics and leveraging their text boxes, drop downs, radio buttons, etc which all work in various browsers perfectly.

I will say that the mobile settings work really well for creating a mobile app prototype. When you start wanting to demonstrate sign-up flows and any text forms, using Axure’s ready-to-use elements makes this extremely quick, almost faster than wire framing them in some other program and then they automatically work on a mobile browser using the native functionality of the browser. Love it.

Netflix is Trying to Go More Social, and its a Good First Attempt

I just noticed that Netflix is pushing harder for social recommendations from its users. Now don’t get me wrong, this should be a huge (if not their top) initiative in my opinion.  Other than showing me an activity feed of all my friends and what they are watching and rating, this type of recommendations to friends is probably the next best social means of bringing friends together to increase usage and activation.


I think the “Recommend” button has been there for a while, but now they are prompting recommendations as the first thing when you log back in, promoting you to recommend the last thing you watched. It doesn’t look like the most elegant design, but its stupid simple and is a good start to test if this feature is working with its users or not. And now that they have my Facebook info, I’m curious to see if I’m more tempted to use this as it should be an easier work flow to complete. I was surprised they didn’t have a default message in the message text box based on the show, because even though I’m going to type over some of it, I don’t want to type the show name or any other details I might not exactly remember. I’m also very curious if they will do more now with my friends activity since they have access to that info, and can cross reference it with their users. This type of content (tv shows and movies) has to be one of the more social elements in peoples’ lives, so I can’t imagine people would be scared to leverage this social element on Netflix.

Restaurant Wine List on an iPad, Good Idea or Bad?

I was pretty surprised when the bartender handed me the wine list menu and upon opening the book-looking thing, I saw an iPad inside it. It felt like a normal menu, but was crafted to house the iPad right in there, so clever. At first I felt like it was a bit too innovative for the normal bar experience where you want to easily view  some drink options, but the app was pretty intuitive and quickly got me to my wine selection.

I have to say this is a great idea (outside the normal pessimistic stuff like running out of power and bugs) just by having a dynamic means to update your menu and have promos and richer media. It was easy to see each section within the app to get all the drink options, and the app did have some nice brand imagery and even though I didn’t notice any, I wouldn’t of minded getting some promos for some event or special at the restaurant or casino.  I wonder when the actual dinner menus will start to be on tablets or touch displays now … I’m surprisingly open to it now.

New 3D Styled Maps and Floor Plans for Interactive Wayfinding

As I was looking into new stylistic approaches to creating floor plan maps, all the 3D modeling stood out as the more innovative and visually interesting approach. The irony here is that I just convinced a client that having walls or features in a standing perspective gets in the way of the viewer clearing seeing walkways and other features behind them. Oh well.

Having a floor plan modeled in a 3D program, not only creates a visual interesting graphic (with shadowing and skewed angles) but also is very efficient in how your create and edit it. You’re not just illustrating it, but you’re creating the floor plan and dimensions and then you have that set to modify with the program doing the hard part of rendering it out at the perspective you want. Thank you Maya.

The first time I leveraged a designer to create our floor plan in Maya (3D) for us, I was thrilled to see him deliver a PSD with separate layers for the floor, walls, shadows, etc. Now, he might have worked some magic, as he’s an experienced badass, but it was ultimately the perfect deliverable for the additional design elements to be set with and then to hand off to development to create the application.

So I guess using Illustrator is going out the window to create floor plans from now on when you can use 3D modeling programs like Maya … if you know 3D or maybe a new media designer or motion graphic designer who knows the right programs.

Tablet Apps going with more Side Menu Navigation Bars

While doing some research before starting a new tablet application user experience, I was checking out the local favorites (Behance, Dribble, etc) and was surprised to see the most eye-catching examples were mostly leveraging a side menu bar. They are almost taking the old tab menu of the first Apple app developer guidelines and just flipping it on the side, which automatically gives it an innovative look. But don’t be so shocked as many native apps on the iPad leverage a left-hand navigation of options.

My first pondering … was this anything to do with Facebook’s left-hand menu options that they released a few years back? I was skeptical of it at first when it came out (how would it interact with the back button paradigm of page flows, etc), but then it caught on like wild fire, and rightfully so, when Facebook does something you only have a taught user base of over a billion users.

For my tablet interface design, I chose to proceed with it but then really had to decide if the side nav was ever-present or expanding/collapsing. It sounds like an easy decision, but it actually has pretty big impacts when you start designing the page layout or a grid system and need to figure out if your content can be covered up or not.

But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I first emailed some initial mockups to my iPad and viewed them. My left thumb naturally was in place to easily switch between my menu items, which made me extremely glad I made them pretty large with an icon and small label, as it was the perfect size for my thumb to hit with little worry about fat-fingering it.

So I guess this new tablet interface style is now in my repertoire, and we’ll see out it irons out with this app product in design reviews and later in live user testing.