The dos and dont’s of UI and online gaming

Ready, Set, Play!

Whether you’re looking at online gaming from the player perspective, or the designer perspective, one thing rings true throughout: immersion. It is absolutely imperative that the intent of the design team is to get players as involved as possible by creating a game user interface template that reels players in and keeps them satisfied. In order to better understand how a game is functioning, it is important to construct the best possible UI by learning from the many good and bad user interfaces out there. Once you pick and choose the best elements and dispense with the worst elements, you can create a UI that meets expectations.

It is no mean feat getting players to engage with the user interface of a game. The immersive effect is paramount. When players are interacting with the game and all of its components, nothing else matters. It needs to be as seamless as possible for an idea to be converted into an in-game reality with the user experience, compliments of the user interface. The right blend of information is vital to maximizing interactivity and minimizing the loss of players. Believe it or not, the choice of colors in the user interface may result in a 1% decline in player numbers if the dominant color is green. This begs the question: what makes for a well-designed user interface? What strategic objectives are necessary for you to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives in game design?

The differences between a good user interface and a great user interface

Many folks confuse a user interface with a user experience. Now, this is justifiable to degree, but these are two separate things entirely. The user interface includes things like the map screen and it also includes things like your control mechanisms – mouse and keyboard. The user experience by contrast is all about how enjoyable your interactions are with the user interface. Now, when it comes to a great user interface, you can get the job done quickly and efficiently. It details exactly what you need to know in a flash. User interface design is predicated on the following questions:

  • Do I have everything I need to know at this moment?
  • Do I need additional instructions to use the UI?
  • Is everything I can do obvious?
  • Is there a lag time for animation or loading?
  • Can I shorten tedious tasks or get rid of them?
  • Is the info I need easily accessible?


There are scores of examples of great user interfaces that use all pertinent information to deliver a gaming experience that is bang on target.

A terrific example is Pipboy by Fallout 3 . The UI is designed in such a way that it urges players to find the most optimal means of playing the game. It challenges players every step of the way. Now, not every game that makes it to the mainstream sports a great user interface. A game that made its way from console to personal computer – Oblivion – may as well but have been left there.

The wasted space, improper controls and poor scaling are all signature features of an inadequate user interface. For example, this game utilises just 21.7% of on-screen for inventories display. The problem in this instance is that you can only see a few items on your PC monitor. And another thing – there are no shortcuts to speak of. Skyrim is a little better – it’s the sequel to the game but there are also no quick exits in the game either.

The Final Word: Excellence in UI Design

Games featuring great user interfaces also know the limits to which they can push design and functionality. The signature elements of a well-designed game are accessibility and convenience. Quick-click access is a winning solution. To make all of this come true, the designer must anticipate what the player wants from the game. All of the info must be readily available and navigation should be smooth and simple. The placement of location and menu systems should be accessible from all points in the game and there should be elimination of repetitive tasks and no animations in the menus. Info that is available for decorative purposes should be dispensed with and any confusing material should be likewise eliminated.