Usability Engineer Breaks Down The ‘Angry Birds’ User Experience

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When I’m not roller blading or lifting weights, I like to pretend like I can understand big words and tackle complex questions. For example: Why is Angry Birds [$.99 / HD / Lite] such a big deal and what in its usability speaks to people in such a profound way? Ah, allow me to start clicking “more” and arranging pages and pages of information. Almost done…

Crap! Someone else beat me to it AND they’re not even looking for page hits! But, really, check out Pulze UX’s teardown of the Angry Birds user experience. It’s a great article filled with spectacular insights into the draw of the title, from its mystery, to its wonky physics, and even its birds.

Let me give you an example. In the following passage author Charles L. Mauro talks about the game’s response time to user inputs. He argues that the seconds and seconds of teetering blocks after you make contact is a good thing that adds a certain depth to the experience that otherwise wouldn’t be thereif Rovio sped up the tumbling process (or straightened out its physics engine). He also discusses the leisurely firing rate of the birds. From the post:

For example, in Angry Birds, it was possible for the programmers to have made the flight of the birds fast — very fast, but they didn’t. Instead they programmed the flight of the angry flock to be leisure pace as they arc across the sky heading for the pigs’ glass houses. This slowed response time, combined with a carefully crafted trajectory trace (the flight path of the bird), solves one huge problem for all user interfaces — error correction.

… In Angry Birds game play the pigs also take a long time to expire once their houses are sent to bits. In many play sequences, seconds are consumed as the pigs teeter, slide and roll off planks or are crushed under slow falling debris. This response time of 3-5 seconds, in most user interfaces, brings users to the point of exasperation, but not with Angry Birds.

Neat, right? Mauro also digs into the game’s smart taxing on our short-term memory, the game’s sound design, and even its visual appeal. If you ever wanted to read something fun about Angry Birds, well, this is it. (Alternatively, if you’re a developer and want some insight on why your grandma can play Angry Birds, this offers some insight.) Now, excuse me while I grab my smoking jacket and cigar. I’ve got some learnin’ to do.

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