Immediate success: What can we learn from game design?

Within 10 seconds of launching your app, can your user be doing something cool, becoming an awesome person who can do rad shit?

Instead of filling out a sign-up form (which must die), get them winning—learning by doing, making the app better. Watch this talk by Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan on how he got his mom to learn & play through the app. In case you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, here are the notes I took:

  1. Blend the tutorial into the game.
    • Instead of a button that says “Tutorial,” just put “Kill myself.”
    • Learning is inherently fun.
    • Games stop being fun when you stop learning.
    • No indication of where the tutorial ends & where the game begins. (Compliment: “That game had a tutorial?”)
    • Teach people without them realizing they’re being taught.
  2. Better to do than read.
    • Simply play & observe.
    • Don’t say, “Did you know that X…?”
    • Mini-games should be fun as well as informative.
  3. Spread out the teaching.
    • You don’t have to each everything right off the bat.
    • Does the player really need to know this right now?
    • Let players enjoy their toys before introducing new ones.
  4. User fewer words.
  5. Use adaptive messaging to display the correct prompts.
    • Stuff that’s too basic may insult more experienced users.
    • Notice when people are lagging on collecting power-ups, etc. (“Hint: Carnivores won’t eat fish food!”)
    • People who figure out stuff on their own feel good about it.
  6. Be frugal. Don’t create noise.
    • Don’t let achievement announcements distract from key text.
    • Showing relevant messages builds user trust.
  7. Use visuals to teach.
    • Ideally you know what something does just by looking at it. Pea shooters look like they shoot; Shield zombies look defended; etc.
    • If you can’t do that, you should understand it after seeing what it does.
    • Consistent visuals: Super Mario enemies that feature spikes can’t be jumped on; ones with wings can’t be hammered.
  8. Leverage what people already know.

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