We can find many types of game websites. Some are simply gigantic with thousand of reviews, previews and daily news that span across many gaming platforms. On the other hand, an official website for a specific game title is often far more simple, with a few trailers, some articles and perhaps a forum. Developers of a game website should be aware of factors that often come into play. These are a few issues web professionals should consider when developing a game website:
Just like movies and songs, games don’t stay in the top ten charts forever. Developers should consider how long a game will stay on the shelves before it is pulled back. Just like canned foods, games also have shelf life. There are many factors that determine shelf life. Some games can have very long shelf life while others may last only for a few months. Successful online games such as some MMORPGs won’t get obsolete anytime soon, although they’ve been around since more than five years ago. A long lasting game usually offers long-term experience, as players need to nurture their virtual characters from the lowest level to the highest, a process that can take months or even years to complete. Offline action games usually offer shorter experience, due to their lower replay value. These games are susceptible to hype and are often long-awaited by consumers, but once released they’ll be forgotten relatively quickly.
Online games get stale longer and players of this gaming style are less resistant to the “next-big-thing” issue. On the other hand, an offline game is only good until it is replaced by a newer one.
Consequently, developers of game websites should consider the fact that some games can have a short shelf life and it may not able to maintain its “fresh” status for long. A game website should reflect this fact. An official website for an offline action game should be impressive and able to encourage visitors to buy the game immediately. On the other hand, an official website of an offline multiplayer game doesn’t need to make quick sales. Although, a large sales volume is essential, more emphasis should be placed on support for existing users. This means, websites for online games should provide services to people already playing the game opposed to luring new players. Consequently, a content-rich website is preferable over a slick design. Www.battle.net/wow/ is a good example of how an official website for online multiplayer game should be developed and maintained. It’s a large portal that contains anything WoW players ever need. This ensures that player will be visiting the site frequently to get latest pieces of information and interact with other players.
The type of audience significantly determines the design of a game website. The gaming community is consisted of very diverse individuals. The long-held belief that gamers are geeks is no longer applicable. Today, gamers range from young preschoolers, who enjoy casual, educative games to middle-aged men who play digital versions of classic board games. You can’t put all gamers in a huge box anymore.
Developers should study the characteristics of audience to determine how the website should look and what contents should be offered. Is the target audience enjoys obliterating baddies with the largest gun they can find or they are interested in careful planning and strategic choices.
You should use experience-driven and simpler design for players of action games, as the design should be able to impress visitors visually and offers a taste of action gaming without lengthy process. Players of strategy or adventure games are more immersed in storyline and they want more contents related to the game mechanics. As the result, you should develop a content-driven site with only decent visuals.
Flash or CSS
In the web design, choosing between Flash and CSS is quite straightforward. You should use CSS if you want to develop a highly interactive and dynamic website. On the other hand, CSS-based websites are easier to develop and maintain. However, developers of a game website should see both technologies from an entirely different perspective. Developers should decide whether they develop a full-Flash website or a purely CSS-based website or a Flash-CSS hybrid.
- Full Flash: Some websites are based heavily on the Adobe’s Flash technology. In general, developers should take this approach only if the game offers short user experience and have a limited shelf life. Obviously, the game publishers want to sell the game hard and fast, so they should pull gamers over the edge with compelling animation and visuals.
- Flash-CSS hybrid: This is the most common type of websites, because developers want to take get benefits of both technologies. The composition of Flash and CSS varies from website to website. Some only use a simple Flash animation on the main page, while others offer a lavish collection of Flash-based animation, trailers and in-game walkthroughs. By using the hybrid approach, developers can make sure the site is easier and cheaper to build and also easier to maintain. Because a hybrid website is still constructed upon a HTML-based platform, developers can add news updates, podcasts, forums, blogs and other much more easily. This type of hybrid website is also appropriate for an online multiplayer game, with long shelf life and continuous development. A hybrid website can also help players to understand how the game is developed. Website administrators can regularly release news, incremental updates or expansions. Content is still king, but a little Flash to spice things up won’t hurt.
- Full-CSS. In the online game community, purely-CSS websites are quite rare. Websites that use this approach usually have significant emphasis on content, with little or no consideration on visual experience, although these sites may still include striking background images and vivid imagery in the main page. In fact, web designers only seek to offer a suitable atmosphere instead of a highly interactive user experience. Often, these websites depend heavily on regular updates based on CMS platform.
At the first glance, some game websites seem to be plagued by poor design decision, with annoying design elements, such as pop up screens that nag users regularly. Actually, this is the kind of experience that some developers seek to offer. An experience-site tries to get visitors excited about the game, by providing a unique online environment. They often use 3D animations and other strong visual elements to evoke desired moods and atmospheres. In addition, relevant mini games can draw users’ attention interactively.
Unfortunately, some game websites employ obtrusive, ugly and large pop-up screen. Some even annoyingly ask users to enter personal information, such as email address and birthday. This is an unreasonable design decision, which can degrade user experience. Of course, email address and age check are mandatory in certain cases, but it’s better to ask for important personal information in a friendlier way, while informing that certain features may not accessible if users refuse to do it.
These are a few ways to create positive user experience in a game website:
- Add interactivity to the visual elements
- Include relevant mini-games
- Incorporate game elements to the website design
You should realize that it’s a bad idea to include excessively intense user experience while the website is being loaded. It doesn’t matter how visually wonderful a website is, in the end, users simply want to read a few lines of text that contains a sought-after information. Sometimes, a full-Flash experience only gets in the way. You may need to offer a highly interactive experience only on certain pages, such as the main page and mini-game pages. It’s not the users’ choice to get this kind of experience, so developers should still view everything from the usability considerations.
Users often find it frustrating to wait for a highly visual website to load. Developers should be aware that some users may have poor connection and large Flash files may make the website looks unresponsive, ruining the user experience immensely. This can become more complicated if multiple website elements must be loaded separately.
Pop-ups may still bearable for some users; however some game websites go one step further by using an impassable intro page. Regardless of how fanatical you are with a game, you may still consider that it’s just disrespectful and ridiculous.
Incorporating game elements into the design can strengthen the tie between the actual game and the website. You can use vivid imagery and iconic images that can be associated closely with the game, such as the images of main characters and memorable spots in the game. Another method to add gaming experience to the website is to reuse in-game navigation in the design.
Modern games are now capable in delivering a fluid cinematic experience through the use of impressive 3D graphics. As the result developers, should add some in-game footages to keep the user experience sufficiently rich. Developers should at least add a single trailer on the main game. However, because videos are resource-intensive, developers should use them sparingly and effectively.
Blogs and podcasts
Modern games require a large team, plenty of time and a big budget to develop. There is nothing worse than spending millions of dollars in the past three years only to see the game is largely ignored by the gaming community after the release date. Consequently, the marketing team should be able to build up a sense of expectation among gamers at least one year before the game is released.
A popular method is through advertising and involvement in game conventions. Obviously, an official website should also already be completed at least one year before the projected release date. Game developers can use blog and podcasts to provide latest news, also leaked in-game images and videos. Blog is a perfect medium to initiate dialogue with visitors and present ideas clearly. As the result, developers can get feedback from visitors to further improve the game.
Integration with publisher’s website
Some game developers decided to incorporate the game’s website in to the publisher’s website. This is useful for a newer and relatively unknown developers, in addition, the website of major publisher often have more resources. However, sometimes it’s difficult for users to distinguish the main navigation of the parent website and the secondary navigation menu specific for the game, which add more complexity to the user experience.
Unconventional layout and navigation
Some Flash-rich websites use unusual layout that can confuse some users. As far as the user experience is concerned, developers of a game website are more likely to use an unorthodox approach and push the edge. The result can be a monumental masterpiece or a maze of confusing webpages.
Developers should take into account advantages of game websites, these sites can be full of inspiration and creativity due to the more relaxed approach used. They can use vivid artworks more freely to create a beautiful website with visual-rich experience. Blogs are appropriate to offer latest news and build up expectation before the game is released. While an excessive use of Flash can may put some users off, many game websites prove that Flash and CSS can go hand in hand and deliver a rich user experience that won’t hinder the smooth flow of website usage.
Although, developer of game websites can use uncommon navigation structure and layout more freely, they shouldn’t confuse users too much. Whatever the method used, the design should remain great and intuitive. Websites that offer an interesting experience bound to attract plenty of traffic from fanatical gamers and average web users alike. Unfortunately, some web designers prioritize too much on visual attractiveness and user experience that cause very unintuitive and hard to grasp navigation.
Many developers try very hard to come up with stunning game websites and forget the old rule, “simpler is better”. Developers shouldn’t bite off more than they can chew by creating a Flash-rich website that frustrates users and can drive visitors away prematurely. Some games can have relatively short shelf lives, despite the significant amount of effort, time and money allocated to create them. This gives developer a small window of opportunity and the website should be able to boost sales a few months after the game is released. A common method is to launch the official website long before the actual release date and build up expectation and interest in the gaming community.
A poorly executed navigation and design can leave a bad impression, which can lead to poor sales and even the demise of a game development company. Although pop-ups and intro pages can be effective in attracting users, they shouldn’t be abused. A website is essentially a “digital salesperson” and a salesperson that creates frustration among potential buyers won’t encourage people to buy.