No matter how entertaining or original the concept of a mobile game, if the user experience is not up to scratch, it will neither gather momentum nor earn an audience.
So what is the difference between a well-oiled mobile game from a UX perspective, and one which is just average or even worse? Here is a look at the factors which determine this, so you can keep them in mind if you decide to develop your own interactive creation.
Easy to reach interface elements
From fast-paced multiplayer shooters to sedate and socially-focused online bingo games, the way you interact with a mobile title needs to be well optimized with the limitations of the platform in mind.
A lot of this will come down to how you expect the user to have their phone oriented. Will they be holding it in a portrait orientation, using just one digit to play, or will it be held landscape, giving you two digits to play with?
In most cases, interface elements that are closer to the bottom of the screen will be easier to reach and result in more overall enjoyment. It pays to experiment with different layouts and configurations, and harness user testing to see if your current setup is adequate or needs tweaking.
Diplomatic use of ads
Plenty of mobile games rely on ad revenues and in-game purchases to cover development costs and generate a profit in the long term. However, while users will accept a certain degree of additional marketing within the game, especially if there was no charge to download it in the first place, you need to balance this carefully to avoid putting off players altogether.
One way around this is to incentivize the viewing of ads by providing in-game rewards for those who do so, such as watching a video ad to unlock cosmetic items or XP boosts. Another is to make sure that the ads are not too obtrusive; filling the screen with a pop-up ad every 60 seconds is a surefire way to get people to uninstall in their droves.
We have already touched upon how interface layout can improve the user experience in mobile games, but another essential element to get right is the overall consistency of the controls. Specifically, you want to make sure that they are intuitive enough that players understand what is expected of them from moment to moment, rather than being taken by surprise by some arcane or illogical interaction that is expected of them.
For example, if players are expected to drag and drop objects and characters around the screen, make sure that the anchor point for interactivity with an on-screen item is identical. Likewise if double-tapping one object has a particular interaction assigned to it in a given context, also apply the same logic to double-tapping in other scenarios, to avoid confusion and frustration as players are getting to grips with the game.
If in doubt, it often helps to follow the same design tropes that are used across lots of games in the same genre, at least in terms of controls. This will instill your game with instant familiarity, rather than making it feel awkward to interact with.
Accessible learning curve
Difficulty in games is often debated, and it is certainly a relevant concern when it comes to mobile games, which need to be accessible enough so that casual audiences are not alienated.
Providing tutorials to bring in new players and ensuring that mechanics are explained thoroughly is a good starting point, but as with all elements of UX, it ultimately comes down to testing to decide whether you need to make alterations.